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Professor in the University, 



Presenteil to the UnirerMitjr of Micliliraii. 



** As this paper coutains nothing which deserves the name either of expe- 
riment or discovery, and as it is, in fact, destitute of every species of merit, 
we should have allowed it to pass among the multitude of those articles which 
must always find their way into the collections of a society which is pledged 
to publish two or three volumes every year. . . . We wish to raise our 
feeble voice against innovations, that can have no other effect than to check 
the progress of science, and renew all those wild phantoms of the imagina- 
tion which Bacon and Newton put to flight from her temple." — Opening 
Paragraph of a Review of Dr. Young's Bakerian Lecture, Edinburgh 
Review^ January 1803, p. 450. 

'•Young's work was laid before the Royal Society, and was made the 
1 801 Bakerian Lecture. But he was before his time. The second number 
of the Edinburgh Review contained an article levelled against him by 
Henry (afterwards Lord) Brougham, and this was so severe an attack that 
Young's ideas were absolutely quenched for fifteen years. Brougham was 
then only twenty-four years of age. Young's theory was reproduced in 
France by Fresnel. In our days it is the accepted theory, and is found to 
explain all the phenomena of hght." — Times Report of a Lecture by Pro- 
fessor Tyndall on Lights April ttj^ 1880. 




Professor of Physiology at the Universiiy ofPmguey 













Op. s. 



[All rights reserved.\ 






(Of thb British Museum), 





Not finding the "well-known German scientific 
journal Kosmos''^ entered in the British Museum 
Catalogue, I have presented the Museum with 
a copy of the number for February 1879, 
which contains the article by Dr. Krause of 
which Mr. Charles Darwin has given a trans- 
lation, the accuracy of which is guaranteed — so 
he informs us — by the translator's " scientific 
reputation together with his knowledge of 
German." * 

I have marked the copy, so that the reader 
can see at a glance what passages have been 
suppressed and where matter has been interpo- 

I have also presented a copy of " Erasmus 
Darwin." I have marked this too, so that the 

^ Preface by Mr. Charles Darwin to "Erasmus Darwin." The 
Museum has copies of a Kostnos that was published 1857-60 and then 
discontinued ; but this is clearly not the Kosmos referred to by Mr. 
Darwin, which began to appear in 1878. 

' Preface to ** Erasmus Darwin." 

viii PREFACE. 

genuine and spurious passages can be easily 

I understand that both the " Erasmus Dar- 
win " and the number of Kosmos have been sent 
to the Keeper of Printed Books, with instruc- 
tions that they shall be at once catalogued 
and made accessible to readers, and do not 
doubt that this will have been done before 
the present volume is published. The reader, 
therefore, who may be sufficiently interested 
in the matter to care to see exactly what has 
been done will now have an opportunity of 
doing so. 

October 2% 1880. 



PoLge 53, line 11, for greatest of living men read '* greatest of 

living men." 
,, 165, ,, 21, „ perception read perfection. 
, , 183, last Ime, dele inverted commas. 

,, 287, last line but three, dele comma between Erasmus and 

Par win. 

to the apparently sudden overthrow of a belief 
which had seemed hitherto to be deeply rooted 
in the minds of almost all men. As a parallel 
to this, though in respect of the rapid spread of 
an opinion, and not its decadence, it is probable 


that those of our descendants who take an 
interest in ourselves will note the suddenness 
with which the theory of evolution, from having 
been generally ridiculed during a period of 
over a hundred years, came into popularity and 
almost universal acceptance among educated 

It is indisputable that this has been the case; 
nor is it less indisputable that the works of Mr. 
Darwin and Mr. Wallace have been the main 
agents in the change that has been brought 
about in our opinions. The names of Cobden 
and Bright do not stand more prominently for- 
ward in connection with the repeal of the Corn 
Laws than do those of Mr. Darwin and Mr. 
Wallace in connection with the general accept- 
ance of the theory of evolution. There is no 
living philosopher who has anything like Mr. 
Darwin's popularity with Englishmen generally ; 
and not only this, but his power of fascination 
extends over all Europe, and indeed in every 
country in which civilisation has obtained a 
footing: not among the illiterate masses, though 
these are rapidly following the suit of the edu- 
cated classes, but among experts and those who 
are most capable of judging. France, indeed 
— the country of Buffon and Lamarck— *-must 
be counted an exception to the general rule, 


but in England and Germany there are few 
men of scientific reputation who do not accept 
Mr. Darwin as the founder of what is com- 
monly called " Darwinism," and regard him as 
perhaps the most penetrative and profound 
philosopher of modern times. 

To quote an example from the last few 
weeks only,^ I have observed that Professor 
Huxley has celebrated the twenty-first year 
since the "Origin of Species" was published by 
a lecture at the Royal Institution, and am told 
that he described Mr. Darwin's candour as 
something actually "terrible" (I give Professor 
Huxley's own word, as reported by one who 
heard it) ; and on opening a small book entitled 
" Degeneration," by Professor Ray Lankester, 
published a few days before these lines were 
written, I find the following passage amid more 
that is to the same purport : — 

" Suddenly one of those great guesses which occasionally 
appear in the history of science was given to the science 
of biology by the imaginative insight of that greatest of 
living naturalists — I would say that greatest of living men 
— Charles Darwin." — Degeneration, p. 10. 

This is very strong language, but it is hardly 
stronger than that habitually employed by the 
leading men of science when they speak of Mr. 

1 May 1880. 


Darwin. To go farther afield, in February 1879 
the Germans devoted an entire number of one 
of their scientific periodicals ^ to the celebration 
of Mr. Darwin's seventieth birthday. There is 
no other Englishman now living who has been 
able to win such a compliment as this from 
foreigners, who should be disinterested judges. 
Under these circumstances, it must seem the 
height of presumption to differ from so great 
an authority, and to join the small band of mal- 
contents who hold that Mr. Darwin's reputation 
as a philosopher, though it has grown up with 
the rapidity of Jonah's gourd, will yet not be 
permanent. I believe, however, that though 
we must always gladly and gratefully owe it to 
Mr. Darwin and Mr. Wallace that the public 
mind has been brought to accept evolution, the 
admiration now generally felt for the " Origin 
of Species " will appear as unaccountable to our 
descendants some fifty or eighty years hence 
as the enthusiasm of our grandfathers for the 
poetry of Dr. Erasmus Darwin does to our- 
selves ; and as one who has yielded to none in 
respect of the fascination Mr. Darwin has exer- 
cised over him, I would fain say a few words 
of explanation which may make the matter 
clearer to our future historians. I do this the 

^ Kosfnos^ February 1879, Leipsic. 


more readily because I can at the same time 
explain thus better than In any other way the 
steps which led me to the theory which I after- 
wards advanced in ** Life and Habit." 

This last, indeed, is perhaps the main pur- 
pose of the earlier chapters of this book. I 
shall presently give a translation of a lecture 
by Professor Ewald Hering of Prague, which 
appeared ten years ago, and which contains 
so exactly the theory I subsequently advocated 
myself, that I am half uneasy lest it should be 
supposed that I knew of Professor Hering's 
work and made no reference to it A friend 
to whom I submitted my translation in MS., 
asking him how closely he thought it resembled 
" Life and Habit," wrote back that it gave my 
own ideas almost in my own words. As far as 
the ideas are concerned this is certainly the 
case, and considering that Professor Hering 
wrote between seven and eight years before I 
did, I think it due to him, and to my readers as 
well as to myself, to explain the steps which led 
me to my conclusions, and, while putting Pro- 
fessor Hering's lecture before them, to show 
cause for thinking that I arrived at an almost 
identical conclusion, as it would appear, by an 
almost identical road, yet, nevertheless, quite 
independently. I must ask the reader, there- 


fore, to regard these earlier chapters as in some 
measure a personal explanation, as well as a 
contribution to the history of an important 
feature in the developments of the last twenty 
years. I hope also, by showing the steps by 
which I was led to my conclusions, to make the 
conclusions themselves more acceptable and 
easy of comprehension. 

Being on my way to New Zealand when the 
" Origin of Species " appeared, I did not get it 
till i860 or 1 86 1. When I read it, I found '*the 
theory of natural selection " repeatedly spoken 
of as though it were a synonym for " the theory 
of descent with modification;" this is especi- 
ally the case in the recapitulation chapter of the 
work. I failed to see how important it was that 
these two theories — if indeed " natural selec- 
tion " can be called a theory — should not be con- 
founded together, and that a " theory of descent 
with modification*' might be true, while a "theory 
of descent with modification through natural 
selection " ^ might not stand being looked into. 

If any one had asked me to state in brief 
what Mr. Darwin's theory was, I am afraid I 
might have answered " natural selection," or 
"descent with modification," whichever came 
first, as though the one meant much the same 

* Origin of species, ed. i., p. 459. 


as the other. I observe that most of the lead- 
ing writers on the subject are still unable to 
catch sight of the distinction here alluded to, 
and console myself for my want of acumen by 
reflecting that, if I was misled, I was misled in 
good company. 

I — and I may add, the public generally — 
failed also to see what the unaided reader who 
was new to the' subject would be almost certain 
to overlook. I mean, that, according to Mr. 
Darwin, the variations whose accumulation re- 
sulted in diversity of species and genus were 
indefinite, fortuitous, attributable but in small 
degree to any known causes, and without a 
general principle underlying them which would 
cause them to appear steadily in a given direc- 
tion for many successive generations and in a 
considerable number of individuals at the same 
time. We did not know that the theory of 
evolution was one that had been quietly but 
steadily gaining ground during the last hundred 
years. Buffon we knew by name, but he 
sounded too like "buffoon" for any good to 
come from him. We had heard also of Lamarck, 
and held him to be a kind of French Lord 
Monboddo; but we knew nothing of his doctrine 
save through the caricatures promulgated by 
his opponents, or the misrepresentations of 


those who had another kind of interest in dis- 
paraging him. Dr. Erasmus Darwin we be- 
lieved to be a forgotten minor poet, but ninety- 
nine out of every hundred of us had never so 
much as heard of the " Zoonomia." We were 
little likely, therefore, to know that Lamarck 
drew very largely from Buffon, and probably 
also from Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and that this 
last-named writer, though essentially original, 
was founded upon Buffon, who was greatly 
more in advance of any predecessor than any 
successor has been in advance of him. 

We did not know, then, that according to 
the earlier writers the variations whose accu- 
mulation results in species were not fortui- 
tous and indefinite, but were due to a known 
principle of universal application — namely, 
" sense of need " — or apprehend the difference 
between a theory of evolution which has a 
backbone, as it were, in the tolerably constant 
or slowly varying needs of large numbers of 
individuals for long periods together, and 
one which has no such backbone, but accord- 
ing to which the progress of one generation is 
always liable to be cancelled and obliterated 
by that of the next. We did not know that the 
new theory in a quiet way professed to tell us 
less than the old had done, and declared that 


It could throw little if any light upon the matter 
which the earlier writers had endeavoured to 
illuminate as the central point in their system. ' 
We took it for granted that more light must 
be being thrown instead of less ; and reading in 
perfect good faith, we rose from our perusal 
with the impression that Mr. Darwin was advo- 
cating the descent of all existing forms of life 
from a single, or from, at any rate, a very few 
primordial types; that no one else had done this 
hitherto, or that, if they had, they had got the 
whole subject into a mess, which mess, whatever 
it was — for we were never told this — was now 
being removed once for all by Mr. Darwin. 

The evolution part of the story, that is to say, 
the fact of evolution, remained in our minds as 
by far the most prominent feature in Mr. Dar- 
win's book ; and being grateful for it, we were 
very ready to take Mr. Darwin's work at the 
estimate tacitly claimed for it by himself, and 
vehemently insisted upon by reviewers in influ- 
ential journals, who took much the same line 
towards the earlier writers on evolution as Mr. 
Darwin himself had taken. But perhaps nothing 
more prepossessed us in Mr. Darwin's favour 
than the air of candour that was omnipresent 
throughout his work. The prominence given 
to the arguments of opponents completely 


carried us away ; it was this which threw us 
off our guard. It never occurred to us that 
there might be other and more dangerous op- 
ponents who were not brought forward, Mr. 
Darwin did not tell us what his grandfather and 
Lamarck would have had to say to this or that. 
Moreover, there was an unobtrusive parade of 
hidden learning and of difficulties at last over- 
come which was particularly grateful to us. 
Whatever opinion might be ultimately come to 
concerning the value of his theory, there could 
be but one about the value of the example he 
had set to men of science generally by the 
perfect frankness and unselfishness of his work. 
Friends and foes alike combined to do homaofe 
to Mr. Darwin in this respect. 

For, brilliant as the reception of the " Origin 
of Species " was, it met in the first instance with 
hardly less hostile than friendly criticism. But 
the attacks were ill-directed ; they came from 
a suspected quarter, and those who led them 
did not detect more than the general public had 
done what were the really weak places in Mr. 
Darwins armour. They attacked him where 
he was strongest ; and above all, they were, as a 
general rule, stamped with a disingenuousness 
which at that time we believed to be peculiar 
to theological writers and alien to the spirit of 


science. Seeing, therefore, that the men of 
science ranged themselves more and more 
decidedly on Mr. Darwin's side, while his oppo- 
nents had manifestly — so far as I can remember, 
all the more prominent among them — a bias to 
which their hostility was attributable, we left off 
looking at the arguments against " Darwinism," 
as we now began to call it, and pigeon-holed the 
matter to the effect that there was one evolution, 
and that Mr. Darwin was its prophet. 

The blame of our errors and oversights rests 
primarily with Mr. Darwin himself. ' The first, 
and far the most important, edition of the "Origin 
of Species " came out as a kind of literary 
Melchisedec, without father and without mother 
in the works of other people. Here is its open- 
ing paragraph :- 

"When on board H.M.S. 'Beagle' as naturalist, I was 
much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the 
inhabitants of South America, and in the geological rela- 
tions of the present to the past inhabitants of that con- 
tinent. These facts seemed to me to throw some light on 
the origin of species — that mystery of mysteries, as it has 
been called by one of our greatest philosophers. On my 
return home, it occurred to me, in 1837, that something 
might be made out on this question by patiently accumlat- 
ing and reflecting upon all sorts of facts which could 
possibly have any bearing on it. After five years' work I 
allowed myself to speculate on the subject, and drew up 
some short notes; these I enlarged in 1844 into a sketch 
of the conclusions which then seemed to me probable : from 


that period to the present day I have steadily pursued the 
same object. I hope that I may be excused for entering on 
these personal details, as I give them to show that I have 
not been hasty in coming to a decisioa" ^ 

In the latest edition this passage remains 
unaltered, except in one unimportant respect. 
What could more completely throw us off the 
scent of the earlier writers ? If they had written 
anything worthy of our attention, or indeed if 
there had been any earlier writers at all, Mr. 
Darwin would have been the first to tell us 
about them, and to award them their due meed 
of recognition. But, no ; the whole thing was 
an original growth in Mr. Darwin s mind, and 
he had never so much as heard of his grand- 
father, Dr, Erasmus Darwin. 

Dr. Krause, indeed, thought otherwise. In 
the number oi Kosmos for February 1879 he 
represented Mr. Darwin as in his youth ap- 
proaching the works of his grandfather with 
all the devotion which people usually feel for 
the writings of a renowned poet.^ This should 
perhaps be a delicately ironical way of hinting 
that Mr. Darwin did not read his grandfather's 
books closely; but I hardly think that Dr. 
Krause looked at the matter in this light, for he 

^ Origin of Species, ed. i., p. i. 
* Kosmos^ February 1879, p. 397. 


goes on to say that " almost every single work 
of the younger Darwin may be paralleled by 
at least a chapter in the works of his ancestor : 
the mystery of heredity, adaptation, the pro- 
tective arrangements of animals and plants, 
sexual selection, insectivorous plants, and the 
analysis of the emotions and sociological im- 
pulses ; nay, even the studies on infants are to 
be found already discussed in the pages of the 
elder Darwin."^ 

Nevertheless, innocent as Mr. Darwin's 
opening sentence appeared, it contained enough 
to have put us upon our guard. When he 
informed us that, on his return from a long 
voyage, "it occurred to" him that the way to 
make anything out about his subject was to 
collect and reflect upon the facts that bore 
upon it, it should have occurred to us in our 
turn, that when people betray a return of con- 
sciousness upon such matters as this, they are 
on the confines of that state in which other and 
not less elementary matters will not ** occur 
to^*' them. The introduction of the word 
"patiently" should have been conclusive. I 
will not analyse more of the sentence, but will 
repeat the next two lines : — " After five years 
of work, I allowed myself to speculate upon 

^ Erasmus Darwin, bj Ernst Krause, pp. 132, 133. 


the subject, and drew up some short notes'." 
We read this, thousands of us, and were blind. 
If Dr. Erasmus Darwin's name was not 
mentioned in the first edition of the **Oriorin 
of Species/' we should not be surprised at 
there being no notice taken of BufFon, or at 
Lamarck's being referred to only twice — on 
the first occasion to be serenely waved aside, 
he and all his works ; ^ on the second,^ to be 
commended on a point of detail. The author 
of the " Vestiges of Creation " was more widely 
known to English readers, having written more 
recently and nearer home. He was dealt with 
summarily, on an early and prominent page, 
by a misrepresentation, which was silently ex- 
punged in later editions of the "Origin of 
Species." In his later editions (I believe first 
in his third, when 6000 copies had been 
already sold), Mr. Darwin did indeed intro- 
duce a few pages in which he gave what he 
designated as a " brief but imperfect sketch " 
of the progress of opinion on the origin of 
species prior to the appearance of his own 
work; but the general impression which a 
book conveys to, and leaves upon, the public 
is conveyed by the first edition — the one 
which is alone, with rare exceptions, reviewed ; 

^ Origin of Species, ed. i., p. 242. ' Ibid., p. 427. 


and in the first edition of the ** Origin of 
Species " Mr. Darwin's great precursors were / 
all either ignored or misrepresented. More- 
over, the "brief but imperfect sketch," when it 
did come, was so very brief, but, in spite of this 
(for this is what I suppose Mr. Darwin must 
mean), so very imperfect, that it might as well 
have been left unwritten for all the help it gave 
the reader to see the true question at issue 
between the original propounders of the theory 
of evolution and Mr. Charles Darwin himself. 

That question is this : Whether variation is 
in the main attributable to a known general 
principle, or whether it is not ? — whether the 
minute variations whose accumulation results 
in specific and generic differences are referable 
to something which will ensure their appearing 
in a certain definite direction, or in certain 
definite directions, for long periods together, 
and in many individuals, or whether they are 
not ? — whether, in a word, these variations are \ 
in the main definite, or indefinite ? 

It is observable that the leading men of 
science seem rarely to understand this even 
now. I am told that Professor Huxley, in his 
recent lecture on the coming of age of the 
" Origin of Species," never so much as alluded 
to the existence of any such division of opinion 



as this. He did not even, I am assured, 
mention "natural selection," but appeared to 
believe, with Professor Tyndall,^ that "evolu- 
tion " is " Mr. Darwin's theory." In his article 
on evolution in the latest edition of the " En- 
cyclopaedia Britannica," I find only a veiled 
perception of the point wherein Mr. Darwin 
is at variance with his precursors. Professor 
Huxley evidently knows little of these writers 
beyond their names; if he had known more, it is 
impossible he should have written that " Buffon 
contributed nothing to the general doctrine of 
evolution,"* and that Erasmus Darwin, "though 
a zealous evolutionist, can hardly be said to 
have made any real advance on his prede- 
cessors." ' The article is in a high degree un- 
satisfactory, and betrays at once an amount of 
ignorance and of perception which leaves an 
uncomfortable impression. 

If this is the state of things that prevails 
even now, it is not surprising that in i860 
the general public should, with few excep- 
tions, have known of only one evolution, 
namely, that propounded by Mr. Darwin. 
As a member of the general public, at that 

1 Nineteenth Century ^ November 1878; Evolution, Old and New, 

PP- 360* 361. 

* Encyclopaedia Britannica, cd. ix., Art. " Evolution," p. 748. 

» Ibid. 


time residing eighteen miles from the 
nearest human habitation, and three days' 
journey on horseback from a bookseller's shop, 
I became one of Mr. Darwin's many enthu- 
siastic admirers, and wrote a philosophical 
dialogue (the most offensive form, except 
poetry and books of travel into supposed un- 
known countries, that even literature can 
assume) upon the " Origin of Species." This 
production appeared in the Press, Canterbury, 
New Zealand, in 1861 or 1862, but I have long 
lost the only copy I had. 


( i8 ) 



It was impossible, however, for Mr. Darwin's 
readers to leave the matter as Mr. Darwin had 
left it. We wanted to know whence came that 
germ or those germs of life which, if Mr. 
Darwin was right, were once the world's only 
inhabitants. They could hardly have come 
hither from some other world ; they could not 
in their wet, cold, slimy state have travelled 
through the dry ethereal medium which we 
call space, and yet remained alive. If they 
travelled slowly, they would die ; if fast, they 
would catch fire, as meteors do on entering the 
earth's atmosphere. The idea, again, of their 
having been created by a quasi-anthropomor- 
phic being out of the matter upon the earth 
was at variance with the whole spirit of evolu- 
tion, which indicated that no such being could 
exist except as himself the result, and not the 
cause, of evolution. Having got back from 

jl^^tgimmKWBvr9..m.ji ^^ 


ourselves to the monad, we were suddenly to 
begin again with something which was either 
unthinkable, or was only ourselves again upon a 
larger scale — to return to the same point as that 
from which we had started, only made harder 
for us to stand upon. 

There was only one other conception possible, 
namely, that the germs had been developed in 
the course of time from some thing or things 
that were not what we called living at all ; that 
they had grown up, in fact, out of the material 
substances and forces of the world in some 
manner more or less analogous to that in which 
man had been developed from themselves. 

I first asked myself whether life might not, 
after all, resolve itself into the complexity of 
arrangement of an inconceivably intricate me- 
chanism. Kittens think our shoe-strings are 
alive when they see us lacing them, because 
they see the tag at the end jump about without 
understanding all the ins and outs of how it 
comes to do so. " Of course," they argue, *' if 
we cannot understand how a thing comes to 
move, it must move of itself, for there can be no 
motion beyond our comprehension but what is 
spontaneous ; if the motion is spontaneous, the 
thing moving must be alive, for nothing can 
move of itself or without our understanding why 


unless it is alive. Everything that is alive and 
not too large can be tortured, and perhaps 
eaten ; let us therefore spring upon the tag ; " 
and they spring upon it. Cats are above this ; 
yet give the cat something which presents a few- 
more of those appearances which she is accus- 
tomed to see whenever she sees life, and she 
will fall as easy a prey to the power which 
association exercises over all that lives as the 
kitten itself. Show her a toy-mouse that can 
run a few yards after being wound up ; the 
form, colour, and action of a mouse being here, 
there is no good cat which will not conclude 
that so many of the appearances of mousehood 
could not be present at the same time without 
the presence also of the remainder. She will, 
therefore, spring upon the toy as eagerly as the 
kitten upon the tag. 

Suppose the toy more complex still, so that it 
might run a few yards, stop, and run on again 
without an additional winding up ; and suppose 
it so constructed that it could imitate eatinor and 
drinking, and could make as though the mouse 
were cleaning its face with its paws. Should 
we not at first be taken in ourselves, and 
assume the presence of the remaining facts of 
life, though in reality they were not there ? 
Query, therefore, whether a machine so com- 



plex as to be prepared with a corresponding 
manner of action for each one of the successive 
emergencies of life as it arose, would not take 
us in for good and all, and look so much as if it 
were alive that, whether we liked it or not, we 
should be compelled to think it and call it so ; 
and whether the being alive was not simply 
the being an exceedingly complicated machine, 
whose parts were set in motion by the action 
upon them of exterior circumstances ; whether, 
in fact, man was not a ki n d of toy- mouse in the 
shape of a[man, only capable of going for seventy 
or eighty years, instead of half as many seconds, 
and as much more versatile as he is more 
durable ? Of course I had an uneasy feeling 
that if I thus made all plants and men into 
machines, these machines must have what all 
other machines have if they are machines at all — a 
d esigner, and some one to wind them up and work 
tIieTirf15ut I thought this might wait for the pre- 
sent, and was perfectly ready then, as fiow, to 
accept a designer from without, if the facts 
upon examination rendered such a belief rea- 

If, then, men were not really alive after all, 
but were only machines of so complicated a 
make that it was less trouble to us to cut the 
difficulty and say that that kind of mechanism 



was "being alive," why should not machines 
ultimately become as complicated as we are, 
or at any rate complicated enough to be called 
living, and to be indeed as living as it was in 
the nature of anything at all to be ? If it 
was only a case of their becoming more com- 
plicated, we were certainly doing our best to 
make them so. 

I do not suppose I at that time saw that 
this view comes to much the same as denying 
that there are such qualities as life and con- 
sciousness at all, and that this, again, works 
round to the assertion of their omnipresence 
in every molecule of matter, inasmuch as it 
TV destroys the separation between the organic 
and inorganic, and maintains that whatever the 
organic is the inorganic is also. Deny it in 
theory as much as we please, we shall still 
always feel that an organic body, unless dead, 
is living and conscious to a greater or less 
degree. Therefore, if we once break down the 
wall of partition between the organic and in- 
organic, the inorganic must be living and con- 
scious also, up to a certain point. 

I have been at work on this subject now 
for nearly twenty years, what I have published 
being only a small part of what I have written 
and destroyed. I cannot, therefore, remember 



exactly how I stood in 1863. Nor can I pre- 
tend to see far into the matter even now ; for 
when I think of life, I find it so difficult, that 
I take refuge in death or mechanism ; and 
when I think of death or mechanism, I find it 
so inconceivable, that it is easier to call it life 
again. The only thing of which I am sure is, 
that the distinction between the organic 'and ^ 
inorganic is arbitrary; that it is more coherent 
with our other ideas, and therefore more accept- 
able, to start with every molecu le as a livin g 
thing, and then deduce death as the breaking 
up of an association or corporation, than to 
start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life 
into them ; and that, therefore, what we • call 
the inorganic world must be regarded as up to 
a certain point living, and instinct, within certain 
limits, with consciousness, volition, and power 
of concerted action. It is only of late, how- . 
ever, that I have come to this opinion. I 

One must start with a hypothesis, no matter 
how much one distrusts it; so I started with 
man as a mechanism, this being the strand of 
the knot that I could then pick at most easily. 
Having worked upon it a certain time, I drew the 
inference about machines becoming animate, 
and in 1862 or 1863 wrote the sketch of the 
chapter • on machines which I afterwards re- 



wrote in ** Erewhon." This sketch appeared in 
the Press, Canterbury, N.Z., June 13, 1863; 
a copy of it is in the British Museum. 

I soon felt that though there was plenty of 
amusement to be got out of this line, it was one 
that I should have to leave sooner or later; 
I therefore left it at once for the view that 
machines were limbs which we had made, and 
carried outside our bodies instead of incorpora- 
ting them with ourselves. A few days or weeks 
later than June 13, 1863, I published a second 
letter in the Press putting this view forward. Of 
this letter I have lost the only copy I had; I have 
not seen it for years. The first was certainly 
not good ; the second, if I remember rightly, was 
a good deal worse, though I believed more in 
the views it put forward than in those of the 
first letter. I had lost my copy before I wrote 
" Erewhon," and therefore only gave a couple 
of pages to it in that book ; besides, there was 
more amusement in the other view. I should 
perhaps say there was an intermediate exten- 
sion of the first letter which appeared in the 
Reasoner^ July i, 1865. 

In 1870 and 1871, when I was writing 
" Erewhon," I thought the best way of looking 
at machines was to see them as limbs which we 
had made and carried about with us or left at 


home at pleasure. I was not, however, satisfied, 
and should have gone on with the subject at 
once if I had not been anxious to write ** The 
Fair Haven," a book which is a development 
of a pamphlet I wrote in New Zealand and 
published in London in 1865. 

As soon as I had finished this, I returned to 
the old subject, on which I had already been 
engaged for nearly a dozen years as continu- 
ously as other business would allow, and pro- 
posed to myself to see not only machines as 
limbs, but also limbs as machines. I felt 
immediately that I was upon firmer ground. 
The use of the word " organ " for a limb told 
its own story ; the word could not have become 
so current under this meaning unless the idea 
of a limb as a tool or machine had been agree- 
able to common sense. What would follow, 
then, if we regarded our limbs and organs as 
things that we had ourselves manufactured for 
our convenience ? 

The first question that suggested itself was, 
how did we come to make them without know- 
ing anything about it ? And this raised another, 
namely, how comes anybody to do anything 
unconsciously ? The answer " habit " was not 
far to seek. But can a person be said to do a 
thing by force of habit or routine when it is his 


ancestors, and not he, that has done it hitherto ? 
Not unless he and his ancestors are one and 
the same person. Perhaps, then, they are the 
same person after all. What is sameness ? I re- 
membered Bishop Butler's sermon on " Personal 
Identity," read it again, and saw very plainly 
that if a man of eighty may consider himself 
identical with the baby from whom he has 
developed, so that he may say, "I am the 
person who at six months old did this or that," 
then the baby may just as fairly claim identity 
with its father and mother, and say to its 
parents on being born, '* I was you only a 
few months ago." By parity of reasoning each 
living form now on the earth must be able 
to claim identity with each generation of its 
ancestors up to the primordial cell inclusive. 

Again, if the octogenarian may claim personal 
identity with the infant, the infant may certainly 
do so with the impregnate ovum from which 
it has developed. If so, the octogenarian will 
prove to have been a fish once in this his present 
life. This is as certain as that he was living 
yesterday, and stands on exactly the same 

I am aware that Professor Huxley maintains 
otherwise. He writes : — " It is not true, for 
example . . . that a reptile was ever a fish, but 


It IS true that the reptile embryo " (and what is 
said here of the reptile holds good also for the 
human embryo), " at one stage of its develop- 
ment, is an organism, which, if it had an inde- 
pendent existence, must be classified among 
fishes." ^ 

This is like saying, ** It is not true that 
such and such a picture was rejected for the 
Academy, but it is true that it was submitted to 
the President and Council of the Royal Aca- 
demy exhibition, with a view to acceptance at 
their next forthcoming annual exhibition, and 
that the President and Council regretted they 
were unable through want of space, &c., &c." — 
and as much more as the reader chooses. I 
shall venture, therefore, to stick to it that the 
octogenarian was once a fish, or if Professor 
Huxley prefers it, " an organism which must be 
classified among fishes/* 

But if a man was a fish once, he may have 
been a fish a million times over, for aught 
he knows; for he must admit that his con- 
scious recollection is at fault, and has nothing 
whatever to do with the matter, which must 
be decided, not, as it were, upon his own evi- 
dence as to what deeds he may or may not 
recollect having executed, but by the produc- 

1 Encyl. Brit, ed. ix., art. "Evolution," p. 750. 


tion of his signatures in court, with satisfactory 
proof that he has deUvered each document as 
his act and deed. 

This made things very much simpler. The 
processes of embryonic development, and in- 
stinctive actions, might be now seen as repeti- 
tions of the same kind of action by the same 
individual in successive generations. It was 
natural, therefore, that they should come in the 
course of time to be done unconsciously, and 
a consideration of the most obvious facts of 
memory removed all further doubt that habit — 
which is based on memory — was at the bottom 
of all the phenomena of heredity. 

I had got to this point about the spring of 
1874, and had begun to write, when I was 
compelled to go to Canada, and for the next 
year and a half did hardly any writing. The 
first passage in " Life and Habit " which I can 
date with certainty is the one on page 52, 
which runs as follows : — 

" It is one against legion when a man tries to differ from 
his own past selves. He must yield or die if he wants to 
differ widely, so as to lack natural instincts, such as hunger 
or thirst, and not to gratify them. It is more righteous in a 
man that he should ' eat strange food,' and that his cheek 
should ' so much as lank not,' than that he should starve 
if the strange food be at his command. His past selves are 
living in him at this moment with the accumulated life of 


centuries. *Do this, this, this, which we too have done, 
and found our profit in it,' cry the souls of his forefathers 
within him. Faint are the far ones, coming and going as 
the sound of bells wafted on to a high mountain ; loud 
and clear are the near ones, urgent as an alarm of 

This was written a few days after my arri- 
val in Canada, June 1874. I was on Montreal 
mountain for the first time, and was struck 
with its extreme beauty. It was a magnificent 
summers evening; the noble St. Lawrence 
flowed almost immediately beneath, and the 
vast expanse of country beyond it was suffused 
with a colour which even Italy cannot surpass. 
Sitting down for a while, I began making notes 
for "Life and Habit," of which I was then 
continually thinking, and had written the first 
few lines of the above, when the bells of N6tre 
Dame in Montreal began to ring, and their 
sound was carried to and fro in a remarkably 
beautiful manner. I took advantage of the 
incident to insert then and there the last lines 
of the piece just quoted. I kept the whole 
passage with hardly any alteration, and am thus 
able to date it accurately.. 

Though so occupied in Canada that writing 
a book was impossible, I nevertheless got many 
notes together for future use. I left Canada at 
the end of 1875, ^^^ early in 1876 began putting 


these notes into more coherent form. I did 
this in thirty pages of closely written matter, of 
which a pressed copy remains in my common- 
place-book. I find two dates among them — the 
first, "Sunday, Feb. 6, 1876;" and the second, 
at the end of the notes, " Feb. 12, 1876." 

From these notes I find that by this time I 
had the theory contained in " Life and Habit " 
completely before me, with the four main prin- 
ciples which it involves, namely, the oneness 
of personality between parents and offspring — 
memory on the part of offspring of certain 
actions which it did when in the persons of 
its forefathers ; the latency of that memory until 
it is rekindled by a recurrence of the associated 
ideas, and the unconsciousness with which habi- 
tual actions come to be performed. 

The first half-page of these notes may serve 
as a sample, and runs thus : — 

" Those habits and functions which we have in common 
with the lower animals come mainly within the womb, or . 
are done involuntarily, as our [growth of] limbs, eyes, &c, 
and our power of digesting food, &c. ... 

" We say of the chicken that it knows how to run about 
as soon as it is hatched, • • • but had it no knowledge 
before it was hatched ? 

" It knew how to make a great many things before it was 

" It grew eyes and feathers and bones. 

^' Yet we say it knew nothing about all this. 


"After it is bom it grows more feathers, and makes its 
bones larger, and develops a reproductive system. 

" Again we say it knows nothing about all this. 

" What then does it know ? 

" Whatever it does not know so well as to be unconscious 
of knowing it 

" Knowledge dwells upon the confines of uncertainty. 

"When we are very certain, we do not know that we 
know. When we will very strongly, we do not know that 
we will." 

I then began my book, but considering 
myself still a painter by profession, I gave 
comparatively little time to writing, and got on 
but slowly. I left England for North Italy in 
the middle of May 1876 and returned early in 
August. It was perhaps thus that I failed to 
hear of the account of Professor Hering's lecture 
given by Professor Ray Lankester in Nature^ 
July 13, 1876 ; though, never at that time seeing 
Nature^ I should probably have missed it under 
any circumstances. On my return I continued 
slowly writing. By August 1877 I considered 
that I had to all intents and purposes completed 
my book. My first proof bears date October 

At this time I had not been able to find that 
anything like what I was advancing had been 
said already. I asked many friends, but not 
one of them knew of anything more than I did ; 
to them, as to me, it seemed an idea so new as 


to be almost preposterous ; but knowing how 
things turn up after one has written, of the ex- 
istence of which one had not known before, I 
was particularly careful to guard against being 
supposed to claim originality. I neither claimed 
it nor wished for it ; for if a theory has any truth 
in it, it is almost sure to occur to several people 
much about the same time, and a reasonable 
person will look upon his work with great 
suspicion unless he can confirm it with the sup- 
port of others who have gone before him. Still 
I knew of nothing in the least resembling it, and 
was so afraid of what I was doing, that though I 
could see no flaw in the argument, nor any loop- 
hole for escape from the conclusion it led to, yet 
I did not dare to put it forward with the serious- 
ness and sobriety with which I should have 
treated the subject if I had not been in con- 
tinual fear of a mine being sprung upon me from 
some unexpected quarter. I am exceedingly 
glad now that I knew nothing of Professor 
Herings lecture, for it is much better. that two 
people should think a thing out as far as they 
can independently before they become aware of 
each other's work ; but if I had seen it, I should 
either, as is most likely, not have written at all, 
or I should have pitched my book in another 


Among the additions I intended making while 
the book was in the press, was a chapter on Mr. 
Darwin's provisional theory of Pangenesis, which 
I felt convinced must be right if it was Mr. 
Darwin's, and which I was sure, if I could once 
understand it, must have an important bearing 
on "Life and Habit." I had not as yet seen that 
the principle I was contending for was Dar- 
winian, not Neo- Darwinian. My pages still 
teemed with allusions to "natural selection," 
and I sometimes allowed myself to hope that 
" Life and Habit " was going to be an adjunct to 
Darwinism which no one would welcome more 
gladly than Mr. Darwin himself. At this 
time I had a visit from a friend, who kindly 
called to answer a question of mine, relative, 
if J remember rightly, to " Pangenesis." He 
came, September 26, 1877. One of the first 
things he said was, that the theory which 
had pleased him more than anything he 
had heard of for some time was one re- 
ferring all life to memory. I said that was 
exactly what I was doing myself, and inquired 
where he had met with his theory. He replied 
that Professor Ray Lankester had written a 
letter about it in Nature some time ago, but 
he could not remember exactly when, and 
had given extracts from a lecture by Pro- 


fessor Ewald Hering, who had originated the 
theory. I said I should not look at it, as I 
had completed that part of my work, and 
was on the point of going to press. I could 
not recast my work if, as was most likely, I 
should find something, when I saw what Pro- 
fessor Hering had said, which would make me 
wish to rewrite my own book ; it was too late 
In the day and I did not feel equal to making 
any radical alteration ; and so the matter ended 
with very little said upon either side. I wrote, 
however, afterwards to my friend asking him 
to tell me the number of Nature which con- 
tained the lecture if he could find it, but he 
was unable to do so, and I was well enough 

A few days before this I had met another 
friend, and had explained to him what I was 
doing. He told me I ought to read Professor 
Mivart's " Genesis of Species," and that if I 
did so I should find there were two sides to 
** natural selection." Thinking, as so many people 
do — and no wonder — that ''natural selection** 
and evolution were much the same thing, and 
having found so many attacks upon evolution 
produce no effect upon me, I declined to read 
it. I had as yet no idea that a writer could 
attack Neo- Darwinism without attacking evolu- 



tion. But my friend kindly sent me a copy ; 
and when I read it, I found myself in the pre- 
sence of arguments different from those I had 
met with hitherto, and did not see my way to 
answering them. I had, however, read only a 
small part of Professor Mivart's work, and was 
not fully awake to the position, when the friend 
referred to in the preceding paragraph called 
on me. 

When I had finished the ** Genesis of 
Species/' I felt that something was certainly 
wanted which should give a definite aim to the 
variations whose accumulation was to amount 
ultimately to specific and generic differences, 
and that without this there could have been 
no progress in organic development. I got the 
latest edition of the ** Origin of Species" in 
order to see how Mr. Darwin met Professor 
Mivart, and found his answers in many respects 
unsatisfactory. I had lost my original copy of 
the " Origin of Species," . and had not read 
the book for some years. I now set about 
reading it again, and came to the chapter on 
instinct, where I was horrified to find the fol- 
lowing passage : — 

"But it would be a serious enror to suppose that the 
greater number of instincts have been acquired by habit in 
one generation and then transmitted by inheritance to the 


succeeding generations. It can be clearly shown that the 
most wonderful instincts with which we are acquainted, 
namely, those of the hive-bee and of many ants, could not 
possibly have been acquired by habit." ^ 

This showed that, according to Mr. Darwin, 
I had fallen into serious error, and my faith in 
him, though somewhat shaken, was far too 
great to be destroyed by a few days' course of 
Professor Mivart, the full importance of whose 
work I had not yet apprehended. I continued 
to read, and when I had finished the chapter 
felt sure that I must indeed have been blunder- 
ing. The concluding words, " I am surprised 
that no one has hitherto advanced this demon- 
strative case of neuter insects against the well- 
known doctrine of inherited habit as advanced 
by Lamarck,"^ were positively awful. There 
was a quiet consciousness of strength about 
them which was more convincing than any 
amount of more detailed explanation. This 
was the first I had heard of any doctrine of 
inherited habit as having been propounded by 
Lamarck (the passage stands in the first edition, 
" the well-known doctrine of Lamarck," p. 242); 
and now to find that I had been only busying 
myself with a stale theory of this long-since 
exploded charlatan — with my book three parts 

* Origin of Species, 6th ed., 1876, p. 206. » Ibid., p. 233. 


written and already in the press — it was a 
serious scare. 

On reflection, however, I was again met with 
the overwhelming weight of the evidence in 
favour of structure and habit being mainly due 
to memory. I accordingly gathered as much 
as I could second-hand of what Lamarck had 
said, reserving a study of his " Philosophie 
Zoologique " for another occasion, and read as 
much about ants and bees as I could find in 
readily accessible works. In a few days I saw 
my way again; and now, reading the " Origin of 
Species" more closely, and I may say more 
sceptically, the antagonism between Mr. Darwin 
and Lamarck became fully apparent to me, and 
I saw how incoherent and unworkable in 
practice the later view was in comparison with 
the earlier. Then I read Mr. Darwin s answers 
to miscellaneous objections, and was met, and 
this time brought up, by the passage beginning 
" In the earlier editions of this work," ^ &c., 
on which I wrote very severely in " Life and 
Habit ; " ^ for I felt by this time that the differ- 
ence of opinion between us was radical, and 
that the matter must be fought out according 
to the rules of the game. After this I went 

* Origin of Species, 6th ed., p. 171, 1876. 
» Pp. 258-260. 


through the earlier part of my book, and cut 
out the expressions which I had used inad- 
vertently, and which were inconsistent with 
a teleological view. This necessitated only 
verbal alterations ; for, though I had not 
known it, the spirit of the book was throughout 

I now saw that I had got my hands full, 
and abandoned my intention of touching upon 
•* Pangenesis." I took up the words of Mr. 
Darwin quoted above, to the effect that it would 
be a serious error to ascribe the greater num- 
ber of instincts to transmitted habit. I wrote 
chapter xi. of " Life and Habit," which is 
headed " Instinct as Inherited Memory ; " I also 
wrote the four subsequent chapters, " Instincts 
of Neuter Insects," "Lamarck and Mr. Darwin," 
" Mr. Mivart and Mr. Darwin/' and the con- 
cluding chapter, all of them in the . month of 
October and the early part of November 1877, 
the complete book leaving the binder s hands 
December 4, 1877, but, according to trade 
custom, being dated 1878. It will be seen that 
these five concluding chapters were rapidly 
written, and this may account in part for the 
directness with which I said anything I had to 
say about Mr. Darwin ; partly this, and partly 
I felt I was in for a penny and might as well be 


in for a pound. I therefore wrote about Mr. 
Darwin's work exactly as I should about any 
one else's, bearing in mind the inestimable 
services he had undoubtedly— and must always 
be counted to have — rendered to evolution. 

( 40 ) 



MR, Darwin's "brier but imperfect" sketch 

"evolution^ OLD AND NEW,** MET WITH. 

Though my book was out in 1877, it was 
not till January 1878 that I took an oppor- 
tunity of looking up Professor Ray Lankester's 
account of Professor Hering's lecture. I can 
hardly say how relieved I was to find that it 
sprung no mine upon me, but that, so far as 
I could gather. Professor Hering and I had 
come to pretty much the same conclusion. I 
had already found the passage in Dr. Erasmus 
Darwin which I quoted in " Evolution, Old 
and New," but may perhaps as well repeat 
it here. It runs — 

" Owing to the imperfection of language, the offspring 
is termed a new animal; but is, in truth, a branch or 
elongation of the parent, since a part of the embryon animal 
is or was a part of the parent, and, therefore, in strict 
language, cannot be said to be entirely new at the time of 


its production, and, therefore, it may retain some of the 
habits of the parent system." ^ 

When, then, the Athenceum reviewed " Life 
and Habit" (January 26, 1878), I took the 
opportunity to write to that paper, calling 
attention to Professor Hering's lecture, and 
also to the passage just quoted from Dr. 
Erasmus Darwin* The editor kindly inserted 
my letter in his issue of February 9, 1878. I 
felt that I had now done all in the way of 
acknowledgment to Professor Hering which 
it was, for the time, in my power to do, 

I again took up Mr. Darwin s " Origin of 
Species," this time, I admit, in a spirit of scep- 
ticism. I read his ** brief but imperfect " sketch 
of the progress of opinion on the origin of 
species, and turned to each one of the writers 
he had mentioned. First, I read all the parts 
of the " Zoonomia " that were not purely medical, 
and was atonished to find that, as Dr. Krause 
has since said in his essay on Erasmus Darwin, 
^' he was the first who proposed and persis- 
tently carried out a well-rounded theory with 
regard to the development of the living world " ^ 
(italics in original). 

This is undoubtedly the case, and I was 

^ Zoonomia, vol, i. p. 484 ; Evolution, Old and New, p. 214. 
2 ''Erasmus Darwin," by Ernest Krause, p. 211, Ix>ndon, 1879. 


surprised at finding Professor Huxley say con- 
cerning this very eminent man that he could 
" hardly be said to have made any real advance 
upon his predecessors." Still more was I 
surprised at remembering that, in the first 
edition of the *^ Origin of Species," Dr. 
Erasmus Darwin had never been so much 
as named ; while in the " brief but imperfect " 
sketch he was dismissed with a line of half- 
contemptuous patronage, as though the 
mingled tribute of admiration and curiosity 
which attaches to scientific prophecies, as 
distinguished from discoveries, was the 
utmost he was entitled to. "It is curious," 
says Mr. Darwin innocently, in the middle 
of a note in the smallest possible type, " how 
largely my grandfather. Dr. Erasmus Darwin, 
anticipated the views and erroneous grounds 
of opinion of Lamarck in his 'Zoonomia' 
(vol. i. pp. 500-510), published in 1794;" 
this was all he had to say about the founder 
of " Darwinism," until I myself unearthed Dr. 
Erasmus Darwin, and put his work fairly 
before the present generation in "Evolution, 
Old and New.'' Six months after I had done 
this, I had the satisfaction of seeing that Mr. 
Darwin had woke up to the propriety of doing 
much the same thing, and that he had pub- 

HOW I WROTE " E VOL UTION;' dr^c. 43 

lished an interesting and charmingly written 
memoir of his grandfather, of which more 

Not that Dr. Darwin was the first to catch 
sight of a complete theory of evolution. BufFon 
was the first to point out that, in view of the 
known modifications which had been effected 
among our domesticated animals and cultivated 
plants, the ass and the horse should be con- 
sidered as, in all probability, descended from a 
common ancestor ; yet, if this is so, he writes — 
if the point "were once gained that among 
animals and vegetables there had been, I do 
not say several species, but even a single one, 
which had been produced in the course of 
direct descent - from another species ; if, for 
example, it could be once shown that the ass 
was but a degeneration from the horse, then 
there is no further limit to be set to the power 
of Nature, and we should not be wrong in 
supposing that, with sufficient time, she has 
evolved all other organised forms from one 
primordial type " V {et Von tCauroit pas tort de 
supposeVy que cCun seul itre elle a su tirer avec 
le temps tons les autres itres organises). 

This, I imagine, in spite of Professor 

^ See ** Evolution, Old and New," p. 91, and Buffon, torn. iv. p. 383, 
ed. 1753. 


Huxley's dictum, is contributing a good deal 
to the general doctrine of evolution ; for 
though Descartes and Leibnitz may have 
thrown out hints pointing more or less 
broadly in the direction of evolution, some 
of which Professor Huxley has quoted, he has 
adduced nothing approaching to the passage 
from Buffon given above, either in respect of 
the clearness with which the conclusion in- 
tended to be arrived at is pointed out, or the 
breadth of view with which the whole ground 
of animal and vegetable nature is covered. 
The passage referred to is only one of many 
to the same effect, and must be connected 
with one quoted in " Evolution, Old and 
New,"' from p. 13 of Buffon's first volume, 
which appeared in 1749, and than which 
nothing can well point more plainly in the 
direction of evolution. It is not easy, there- 
fore, to understand why Professor Huxley 
should give 1753-78 as the date of Buffon's 
work, nor yet why he should say that Buffon 
was "at first a partisan of the absolute im- 
mutability of species/" unless, indeed, we 
suppose he has been content to follow that 
very unsatisfactory writer, Isidore Geoffroy St. 

^ Evolution, Old and New, p. 104. 
* Encycl. Brit, 9th ed., art "Evolution,** p. 748. 


HOW I WROTE " E VOL UTION;' 6-r. 45 

Hilaire (who falls into this error, and says 
that Buffon's first volume on animals appeared 
1753), without verifying him, and without 
making any reference to him. 

Professor Huxley quotes a passage from the 
*' Paling^ndsie Philosophique " of Bonnet, of 
which he says that, making allowance for his 
peculiar views on the subject of generation, they 
bear no small resemblance to what is understood 
by " evolution " at the present day. The most 
important parts of the passage quoted are as 
follows : — 

" Should I be going too far if I were to conjecture that 
the plants and animals of the present day have arisen by a 
sort of natural evolution from the organised beings which 
peopled the world in its original state as it left the hands of 
the Creator? ... In the outset organised beings were 
probably very different from what they are now — as different 
as the original world is from our present one. We have no 
means of estimating the amount of these differences, but it 
is possible that even our ablest naturalist, if transplanted to 
the original world, would entirely fail to recognise our plants 
and animals therein." ^ 

But this is feeble in comparison with Buffon, 
and did not appear till 1 769, when Buffon had 
been writing on evolution for a full twenty 
years with the eyes of scientific Europe upon 

^ Palingen^sie Philosophique, part x. chap. ii. (quoted from Professor 
Huxley's article on '* Evolution," Encycl. Brit., 9th ed., p. 745). 


him. Whatever concession to the opinion of 
BufFon Bonnet may have been inclined to make 
in 1 769, in 1 764, when he published his " Con- 
templation de la Nature/' and in 1762 when 
his " Considerations sur les Corps Organises " 
appeared, he cannot be considered to have 
been a supporter of evolution. I went through 
these works in 1878 when I was writing "Evo- 
lution, Old and New/* to see whether I could 
claim him as on my side ; but though fre- 
quently delighted with his work, I found it 
impossible to press him into my service. 

The pre-eminent claim of Buffon to be con- 
sidered as the father of the modern doctrine 
of evolution cannot be reasonably disputed, 
though he was doubtless led to his conclusions 
by the works of Descartes and Leibnitz, of both 
of whom he was an avowed and very warm 
admirer. His claim does not rest upon a pas- 
sage here or there, but upon the spirit of forty 
quartos written over a period of about as many 
years. Nevertheless he wrote, as I have shown 
in " Evolution, Old and New," of set purpose 
enigmatically, whereas there was no beating 
about the bush with Dr. Darwin. He speaks 
straight out, and Dr. Krause is justified in 
saying of him "^^Aai he was the first who pro- 

HOW I WROTE " E VOL UTION,'' d^c, 47 

posed and persistently carried out a well-rou7ided 
theory '* of evolution. 

I now turned to Lamarck. I read the first 
volume of the *' Philosophie Zoologique/* ana- 
lysed it and translated the most important 
parts. The second volume was beside my 
purpose, dealing as it does rather with the 
origin of life than of species, and travelling too 
fast and too far for me to be able to keep up 
with him. Again I was astonished at the little 
mention Mr. Darwin had made of this illustrious 
writer, at the manner in which he had motioned 
him away, as it were, with his hand in the first 
edition of the ** Origin of Species," and at the 
brevity and imperfection of the remarks made 
upon him in the subsequent historical sketch. 

I got Isidore Geoffroy s *' Histoire Naturelle 
Generale," which Mr. Darwin commends in the 
note on the second page of the historical sketch, 
as giving *'an excellent history of opinion" 
upon the subject of evolution, and a full account 
of BufFon*s conclusions upon the same subject. 
This at least is what I supposed Mr. Darwin to 
mean. What he said was that Isidore Geoffroy 
gives an excellent history of opinion on the 
subject of the date of the first publication of 
Lamarck, and that in his work there is a full 
account of Buffon's fluctuating conclusions upon 


the same subject} But Mr. Darwin is a more 
than commonly puzzling writer. I read what 
M. Geoffroy had to say upon Buffon, and was 
surprised to find that, after all, according to M. 
Geoffroy, he, and not Lamarck, was the founder 
of the theory of evolution. His name, as I 
have already said, was never mentioned in 
the first edition of the ** Origin of Species." 

M. Geoffroy goes into the accusations of 
having fluctuated in his opinions, which he 
tells us have been brought against Buffon, and 
comes to the conclusion that they are unjust, 
as any one else will do who turns to Buffon 
himself. Mr. Darwin, however, in the " brief 
but imperfect sketch," catches at the accusa- 
tion, and repeats it while saying nothing what- 
ever about the defence. The following is 
still all he says : — *' The first author who in 
modern times has treated" evolution **in a 
scientific spirit was Buffon. But as his opinions 
fluctuated greatly at^ different periods, and 
as he does not enter on the causes or means 
of the transformation of species, I need not 
here enter on details." On the next page, 

^ The note began thus : " I have taken the date of the first pub- 
lication of Lamarck from Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire's (Hist. Nat. 
Generale, torn. ii. p. 405, 1859) excellent history of opinion upon this 
subject. In this work a full account is given of Buffon's fluctuating 
conclusions upon the same subject." — Origin of Species^ 3ded., 1861, 
p. xiv. 


in the note last quoted, Mr. Darwin origi- 
nally repeated the accusation of having been 
fluctuating in his opinions, and appeared to 
give it the imprimatur of Isidore Geoffroy's 
approval ; the fact being that Isidore Geoffroy 
only quoted the accusation in order to refute 
it; and though, I suppose, meaning well, did 
not make half the case he might have done, 
and abounds with misstatements. My readers 
will find this matter particularly dealt with in 
" Evolution, Old and New," Chapter X. 

I gather that some one must have com- 
plained to Mr. Darwin of his saying that Isidore 
Geoffroy gave an account of Buffon's " fluctuat- 
ing conclusions" concerning evolution, when 
he was doing all he knew to maintain that 
Buffbn*s conclusions did not fluctuate ; for I see 
that in the edition of 1876 the word ** fluctuat- 
ing'* has dropped out of the note in question, 
and we now learn that Isidore Geoffroy gives " a 
full account of Buffbn s conclusions," without the 
'' fluctuating." But Buffbn has not taken much 
by this, for his opinions are still left fluctuating 
greatly at different periods on the preceding 
page, and though he still was the first to treat 
evolution in a scientific spirit, he still does not 
enter upon the causes or means of the transfor- 
mation of species. No one can understand Mr. 


Darwin who does not collate the different 
editions of the " Origin of Species " with some 
attention. When he has done this, he will 
know what Newton meant by saying he felt 
like a child playing with pebbles upon the sea- 

One word more upon this note before I leave 
it. Mr. Darwin speaks of Isidore Geoffroy's 
history of opinion as " excellent," and his ac- 
count of Buffon's opinions as " full." I wonder 
how well qualified he is to be a judge of these 
matters ? If he knows much about the earlier 
writers, he is the more inexcusable for having 
said so little about them. If little, what is his 
opinion worth ? 

To return to the "brief but imperfect sketch.*' 
I do not think I can ever again be surprised at 
anything Mr. Darwin may say or do, but if I 
could, I should wonder how a writer who did 
not *' enter upon the causes or means of the 
transformation of species," and whose opinions 
" fluctuated greatly at different periods," can be 
held to have treated evolution " in a scientific 
spirit." Nevertheless, when I reflect upon the 
scientific reputation Mr. Darwin has attained, 
and the means by which he has won it, I 
suppose the scientific spirit must be much 
what he here implies. I see Mr. Darwin 

HOW I WROTE ''evolution;' &>€. SI 

says of his own father, Dr. Robert Darwin of 
Shrewsbury, that he does not consider him to 
have had a scientific mind. Mr. Darwin cannot 
tell why he does not think his father's mind to 
have been fitted for advancing science, *^ for he 
was fond of theorising, and was incomparably 
the best observer" Mr. Darwin ever knew.^ 
From the hint given in the " brief but imperfect 
sketch," I fancy I can help Mr. Darwin to see 
why he does not think his father's mind to have 
been a scientific one. It is possible that Dr. 
Robert Darwin's opinions did not fluctuate 
sufficiently at different periods, and that Mr. 
Darwin considered him as having in some 
way entered upon the causes or means of the 
transformation of species. Certainly those who 
read Mr. Darwin's own works attentively will 
find no lack of fluctuation in his case; and 
reflection will show them that a theory of 
evolution which relies mainly on the accumula- 
tion of accidental variations comes very close 
to not entering upon the causes or means of 
the transformation of species.^ 

I have shown, however, in ** Evolution, Old 
and New/' that the assertion that Buffbn does 
not enter on the causes or means of the trans- 

^ Life of Erasmus Darwin, pp. 84, 85. 
^ See Life and Habit, p. 264 and pp. 276, 277. 


formation of species is absolutely without 
foundation, and that, on the contrary, he is 
continually dealing with this very matter, and 
devotes to it one of his longest and most im- 
portant chapters,^ but I admit that he is less 
satisfactory on this head than either Dr. 
Erasmus Darwin or Lamarck. 

As a matter of fact, Buffon is much more of 
a Neo-Darwinian than either Dr. Erasmus 
Darwin or Lamarck, for with him the varia- 
tions are sometimes fortuitous. In the case of 
the dog, he speaks of them as making their 
appearance '^dy some chance common enough 
with Nature," ^ and being perpetuated by man's 
selection. This is exactly the "if any slight 
favourable variation happen to arise" of Mr. 
Charles Darwin. Buffon also speaks of the 
variations among pigeons arising '^ par hasard^ 
But these expressions are only slips ; his main 
cause of variation is the direct action of changed 
conditions of existence, while with Dr. Erasmus 
Darwin and Lamarck the action of the con- 
ditions of existence is indirect, the direct action 
being that of the animals or plants themselves, 
in consequence of changed sense of need under 
changed conditions. 

1 See Evolution, Old and New, pp. 159-165. 

* Ibid., p. 122. 


I should say that the sketch so often referred 
to is at first sight now no longer imperfect in 
Mr. Darwin's opinion. It was " brief but im- 
perfect" in 1 86 1 and in 1866, but in 1876 I see 
that it is brief only. Of course, discovering that 
it was no longer imperfect, I expected to find 
it briefer. What, then, was my surprise at find- 
ing that it had become rather longer ? I have 
found no perfectly satisfactory explanation of 
this inconsistency, but, on the whole, incline to 
think that the greatest of living men felt him- 
self unequal to prolonging his struggle with 
the word " but," and resolved to lay that con- 
junction at all hazards, even though the doing 
so might cost him the balance of his adjec- 
tives ; for I think he must know that his 
sketch is still imperfect. 

From Isidore Geoffroy I turned to Buffon 
himself, and had not long to wait before I felt 
that I was now brought into communication 
with the master-mind of all those who have up 
to the present time busied themselves with 
evolution. For a brief and imperfect sketch of 
him, I must refer my readers to "Evolution, 
Old and New." 

I have no great respect for the author of the 
"Vestiges of Creation," who behaved hardly 
better to the writers upon whom his own work 


was founded than Mr. Darwin himself has 
done. Nevertheless, I could not forget the 
gravity of the misrepresentation with which 
he was assailed on page 3 of the first edition 
of the " Origin of Species," nor impugn the 
justice of his rejoinder in the following year/ 
when he replied that it was to be regretted Mr. 
Darwin had read his work "almost as much 
amiss as if, like its declared opponents, he had 
an interest in misrepresenting it."* I could 
not, again, forget that, though Mr. Darwin did 
not venture to stand by the passage in question, 
it was expunged without a word of apology or 
explanation of how it was that he had come to 
write it. A writer with any claim to our con- 
sideration will never fall into serious error 
about another writer without hastening to make 
a public apology as soon as he becomes aware 
of what he has done. 

Reflecting upon the substance of what I have 
written in the last few pages, I thought it right 
that people should have a chance of knowing 
more about the earlier writers on evolution 
than they were likely to hear from any of our 
leading scientists (no matter how many lectures 
they may give on the coming of age of the 

^ See Evolution, Old and New, pp. 247, 248. 
• Vestiges of Creation, ed. i860, "Proofs, Illustrations, &c.," p. Ixiv. 

HOW I WROTE ''Evolution;' &-c, 55 

''Origin of Species") except Professor Mivart 
A book pointing the difference between teleolo- 
gical and non-teleological views of evolution 
seemed likely to be useful, and would afford me 
the opportunity I wanted for giving a risumi 
of the views of each one of the three chief 
founders of the theory, and of contrasting them 
with those of Mr. Charles Darwin, as well as 
for calling attention to Professor Herings 
lecture. I accordingly wrote " Evolution, Old 
and New," which was prominently announced in 
the leading literary periodicals at the end of 
February, or on the very first days of March 
1879,^ as "a comparison of the theories of 
Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, and Lamarck, 
with that ot Mr. Charles Darwin, with copi- 
ous extracts from the works of the three first- 
named writers." In this book I was hardly able 
to conceal the fact that, in spite of the obliga- 
tions under which we must always remain to 
Mr. Darwin, I had lost my respect for him and 
for his work. 

I should point out that this announcement, 
coupled with what I had written in " Life and 
Habit," would enable Mr. Darwin and his 
friends to form a pretty shrewd guess as to 
what I was likely to say, and to quote from Dr. 

^ The first announcement was in the Examiner ^ February 22, 1879. 


Erasmus Darwin in my forthcoming book. 
The announcement, indeed, would tell almost 
as much as the book itself to those who knew 
the works of Erasmus Darwin. 

As may be supposed, *' Evolution, Old 
and New," met with a very unfavourable re- 
ception at the hands of many of its reviewers. 
The Saturday Review was furious. " When a 
writer," it exclaimed, *'who has not given as 
many weeks to the subject as Mr. Darwin has 
given years, is not content to air his own crude 
though clever fallacies, but assumes to criticise 
Mr. Darwin with the superciliousness of a 
young schoolmaster looking over a boy s theme, 
it is difficult not to take him more seriously than 
he deserves or perhaps desires. One would 
think that Mr. Butler was the travelled and 
laborious observer of Nature, and Mr. Darwin 
the pert speculator who takes all his facts at 
secondhand." ^ 

The lady or gentleman who writes in such a 
strain as this should not be too hard upon others 
whom she or he may consider to write like 
schoolmasters. It is true I have travelled — not 
much, but still as much as many others, and 
have endeavoured to keep my eyes open to the 
facts before me ; but I cannot think that I 

1 Saturday Review^ May 31, 1879. 

HOW I WROTE ''Evolution;' &-c. 57 

made any reference to my travels in " Evolu- 
tion, Old and New." I did not quite see what 
that had to do with the matter. A man may get 
to know a good deal without ever going beyond 
the four-mile radius from Charing Cross. Much 
less did I imply that Mr. Darwin was pert : 
pert is one of the last words that can be applied 
to Mr. Darwin. Nor, again, had I blamed him 
for taking his facts at secondhand; no one is 
to be blamed for this, provided he takes well- 
established facts and acknowledges his sources. 
Mr. Darwin has generally gone to good sources. 
The ground of complaint against him is that he 
muddied the water after he had drawn it, and 
tacitly claimed to be the rightful owner of the 
spring, on the score of the damage he had 

Notwithstanding, however, the generally 
hostile, or more or less contemptuous, reception 
which ** Evolution, Old and New," met with, 
there were some reviews — as, for example, 
those in the Field} the Daily Chronicle} the 
AthencBum}^ the Journal of Science,^ the 
British Journal of Homoeopathy} the Daily 
News} the Popular Science Review ^ — which 
were all I could expect or wish. 

^ May 26, 1879. * May 31, 1879. ' July 26, 1879. 
* July 1879. ^ July 1879. • July 29, 1879. ' January 1880. 

( 58 ) 




By far the most important notice of " Evolu- 
tion, Old and New," was that taken by Mr. 
Darwin himself; for I can hardly be mistaken 
in believing that Dr. Krause's article would have 
been allowed to repose unaltered in the pages 
of the well-known German scientific journal, 
KosmoSy unless something had happened to 
make Mr. Darwin feel that his reticence con- 
cerning his grandfather must now be ended. 

Mr. Darwin, indeed, gives me the impression 
of wishing me to understand that this is not the 
case. At the beginning of this year he wrote 
to me, in a letter which I will presently give in 
full, that he had obtained Dr. Krause's consent 
for a translation, and had arranged with Mr. 
Dallas, before my book was "announced.*' " I re- 
member this," he continues, " because Mr. Dallas 
wrote to tell me of the advertisement" But 
Mr. Darwin is not a clear writer, and it is im- 


possible to say whether he is referring to the 
announcement of " Evolution, Old and New " — 
in which case he means that the arrangements 
for the translation of Dr. Krause's article were 
made before the end of February 1879, and 
before any public intimation could have reached 
him as to the substance of the book on which 
I was then engaged — or to the advertisements 
of its being now published, which appeared at 
the beginning of May; in which case, as I 
have said above, Mr. Darwin and his friends 
had for some time had full opportunity of 
knowing what I was about. I believe, how- 
ever, Mr. Darwin to intend that he remembered 
the arrangements having been made before the 
beginning of May — his use of the word "an- 
nounced," instead of "advertised," being an 
accident ; but let this pass. 

Some time after Mr. Darwin's work appeared 
in November 1879, I got it, and looking at 
the last page of the book, I read as follows : — 

" They " (the elder Darwin and Lamarck) " explain the 
adaptation to purpose of organisms by an obscure impulse 
or sense of what is purpose-like ; yet even with regard to 
man we are in the habit of saying, that one can never know 
what so-and-so is good for. The purpose-like is that which 
approves itself, and not^always that which is struggled for by 
obscure impulses and desires. Just in the same way the 
beautiful is what pleases'' 


I had a sort of feeling as though the writer 
of the above might have had *' Evolution, Old 
and New," in his mind, but went on to the next 
sentence, which ran-r- 

" Erasmus Darwin's system was in itself a most significant 
first step in the path of knowledge which his grandson has 
opened up for us, but to wish to revive it at the present 
day, as has actually been seriously attempted, shows a 
weakness of thought and a mental anachronism which no 
one can envy." 

" That's me," said I to myself promptly. I 
noticed also the position in which the sentence 
stood, which made it both one of the first that 
would be likely to catch a reader's eye, and the 
last he would carry away with him. I therefore 
expected to find an open reply to some parts of 
^* Evolution, Old and New," and turned to Mr. 
Darwin's preface. 

To my surprise, I there found that what I 
had been reading could not by any possibility 
refer to me, for the preface ran as follows : — 

"In the February number of a well-known German 
scientific journal, Kosmos^ Dr. Ernest Krause published a 
sketch of the * Life of Erasmus Darwin,' the author of the 
•Zoonomia,' 'Botanic Garden,' and other works. This 
article bears the title of a * Contribution to the History of 
the Descent Theory ; ' and Dr. Krause has kindly allowed 

^ How far Kostnos was ** a well-known " journal, I cannot determine. 
It had just entered upon its second year. 

MR. DAR WIN AND " E VOL UTION^' fir-r. 6 1 

my brother Erasmus and myself to have a translation made 
of it for publication in this country." 

Then came a note as follows : — 

"Mr. Dallas has undertaken the translation, and his 
scientific reputation, together with his knowledge of Ger- 
man, is a guarantee for its accuracy." 

I ought to have suspected inaccuracy where 
I found so much consciousness of accuracy, but 
I did not. However this may be, Mr. Darwin 
pins himself down with every circumstance of 
preciseness to giving Dr. Krause's article as it 
appeared in Kosmos, — the whole article, and 
nothing but the article. No one could know 
this better than Mr. Darwin. 

On the second page of Mr. Darwin's preface 
there is a small-type note saying that my work, 
** Evolution, Old and New," had appeared since 
the publication of Dr. Krause's article. Mr. 
Darwin thus distinctly precludes his readers 
from supposing that any passage they might 
meet with could have been written in reference 
to, or by the light of, my book. If anything 
appeared condemnatory of that book, it was an 
undesigned coincidence, and would show how 
little worthy of consideration I must be when 
my opinions were refuted in advance by one 
who could have no bias in regard to them. 

Knowing that if the article I was about to 


read appeared in February, it must have been 
published before my book, which was not out 
till three months later, I saw nothing in Mr. 
Darwin's preface to complain of, and felt that 
this was only another instance of my absurd 
vanity having led me to rush to conclusions 
without sufficient grounds, — as if it was likely, 
indeed, that Mr. Darwin should think what I 
had said of sufficient importance to be affected 
by it. It was plain that some one besides my- 
self, of whom I as yet knew nothing, had been 
writing about the elder Darwin, and had taken 
much the same line concerning him that I had 
done. It was for the benefit of this person, 
then, that Dr. Krause's paragraph was intended. 
I returned to a becoming sense of my own in- 
significance, and began to read what I supposed 
to be an accurate translation of Dr. Krause*s 
article as it originally appeared, before " Evolu- 
tion, Old and New," was published. 

On pp. 3 and 4 of Dr. Krause's part of Mr. 
Darwin's book (pp. 133 and 134 of the book 
itself), I detected a sub-apologetic tone which 
a little surprised me, and a notice of the fact 
that Coleridge when writing on Stillingfleet had 
used the word " Darwinising." Mr. R. Garnett 
had called my attention to this, and I had men- 
tioned it in "Evolution, Old and New," but 


the paragraph only struck me as being a little 

When I got a few pages farther on (p. 147 
of Mr. Darwin's book), I found a long quotation 
from Buffon about rudimentary organs, which I 
had quoted in " Evolution, Old and New." I 
observed that Dr. Krause used the same 
edition of Buffon that I did, and began his 
quotation two lines from the beginning of 
Buffon's paragraph, exactly as I had done ; also 
that he had taken his nominative from the 
omitted part of the sentence across a full stop, 
as I had myself taken it. A little lower I found 
a line of Buffon*s omitted which I had given, 
but I found that at that place I had inadver- 
tently left two pair of inverted commas which 
ought to have come out,^ having intended to 
end my quotation, but changed my mind and 
continued it without erasing the commas. It 
seemed to me that these commas had bothered 
Dr. Krause, and made him think it safer to 
leave something out, for the line he omits is a 
very good one. I noticed that he translated 
*' Mais comme nous voulons toujours tout rap- 
porter k un certain but," " But we, always wish- 
ing to refer," &c., while I had it, " But we, ever 
on the look-out to refer," &c. ; and " Nous ne 

^ Evolution, Old and New, p. 120, line 5. 


faisons pas attention que nous alt^rons la philo- 
sophie," " We fail to see that thus we deprive 
philosophy of its true character," whereas I had 
"We fail to see that we thus rob philosophy of 
her true character." This last was too much ; 
and though it might turn out that Dr. Krause 
had quoted this passage before I had done so, 
had used the same edition as I had, had began 
two lines from the beginning of a paragraph as 
I had done, and that the later resemblances 
were merely due to Mr. Dallas having com- 
pared Dr. Krause's German translation of 
Buffon with my English, and very properly 
made use of it when he thought fit, it looked 
prima facie more as though my quotation had 
been copied in English as it stood, and then 
altered, but not quite altered enough. This, in 
the face of the preface, was incredible ; but so 
many points had such an unpleasant aspect, that 
I thought it better to send for Kosmos and see 
what I could make out. 

At this time I knew not one word of German. 
On the same day, therefore, that I sent for 
Kosmos I began to acquire that language, and 
in the fortnight before Kosmos came had got 
far enough forward for all practical purposes — 
that is to say, with the help of a translation and 
a dictionary, I could see whether or no a 


German passage was the same as what pur- 
ported to be its translation. 

When Kosmos came I turned to the end of 
the article to see how the sentence about mental 
anachronism and weakness of thought looked 
in German. I found nothing of the kind, 
the original article ended with some innocent 
rhyming doggerel about somebody going on 
and exploring something with eagle eye ; but 
ten lines from the end I found a sentence which 
corresponded with one six pages from the end 
of the English translation. After this there 
could be little doubt that the whole of these 
last six English pages were spurious matter. 
What little doubt remained was afterwards 
removed by my finding that they had no place 
in any part of the genuine article. I looked for 
the passage about Coleridge's using the word 
" Darwinising ; " it was not to be found in the 
German. I looked for the piece I had quoted 
from Buffon about rudimentary organs; but 
there was nothing of it, nor indeed any refer- 
ence to Buffon. It was plain, therefore, that 
the article which Mr. Darwin had given was 
not the one he professed to be giving. I read 
Mr. Darwin's preface over again to see whe- 
ther he left himself any loophole. There was 
not a chink or cranny through which escape 



was possible. The only inference that could be 
drawn was either that some one had imposed 
upon Mr. Darwin, or that Mr. Darwin, although 
it was not possible to suppose him ignorant of 
the interpolations that had been made, nor of 
the obvious purpose of the concluding sentence, 
had nevertheless palmed off an article which 
had been added to and made to attack " Evolu- 
tion, Old and New,'* as though it were the origi- 
nal article which appeared before that book was 
written. I could not and would not believe that 
Mr. Darwin had condescended to this. Never- 
theless, I saw it was necessary to sift the whole 
matter, and began to compare the German and 
the English articles paragraph by paragraph. 

On the first page I found a passage omitted 
from the English, which with great labour I 
managed to get through, and can now translate 
as follows : — 

"Alexander Von Humboldt used to take pleasure in 
recounting how powerfully Forster's pictures of the South 
Sea Islands and St Pierre's illustrations of Nature had 
provoked his ardour for travel and influenced his career as a 
scientific investigator. How much more impressively must 
the works of Dr. Erasmus Darwin, with their reiterated fore- 
shadowing of a more lofty interpretation of Nature, have 
affected his grandson, who in his youth assuredly ap- 
proached them with the devotion due to the works of a 

renowned poet." ^ 

- - ' 

* Kosmos, February 1879, p. 397. 



I then came upon a passage common to 
both German and English, which in its turn 
was followed in the English by the sub-apolo- 
getic paragraph which I had been struck with 
on first reading, and which was not in the 
German, its place being taken by a much 
longer passage which had no place in the 
English. A little farther on I was amused at 
coming upon the following, and at finding it 
wholly transformed in the supposed accurate 
translation : — 

"How must this early and penetrating explanation of 
rudimentary organs have affected the grandson when he 
read the poem of his ancestor I But indeed the biological 
remarks of this accurate observer in regard to certain 
definite natural objects must have produced a still deeper 
impression upon him, pointing, as they do, to questions 
which have attained so great a prominence at the present 
day; such as, Why is any creature anywhere such as we 
actually see it, and nothing else ? Why has such and such 
a plant poisonous juices ? Why has such and such another 
thorns ? Why have birds and fishes light-coloured breasts 
and dark backs, and, Why does every creature resemble the 
one from which it sprung ? " ^ 

I will not weary the reader with further 
details as to the omissions from and additions 
to the German text. Let it suffice that the so- 
called translation begins on p. 131 and ends on 
p. 216 of Mr. Darwin's book. There is new 

^ KosmoSy February 1879, p. 404. 


matter on each one of the pp. 132-139, while 
almost the whole of pp. 147-152 inclusive, and 
the whole of pp. 2 1 1-2 16 inclusive, are spurious 
— that is to say, not what they purport to be, 
not translations from an article that was pub- 
lished in February 1879, and before " Evolution, 
Old and New," but interpolations not published 
till six months after that book. 

Bearing in mind the contents of two of the 
added passages and the tenor of the concluding 
sentence quoted above,^ I could no longer doubt 
that the article had been altered by the light of 
and with a view to *' Evolution, Old and New." 

The steps are perfectly clear. First Dr. 
Krause published his article in Kosmos and 
my book was announced (its purport being 
thus made obvious), both in the month of 
February 1879. Soon afterwards arrangements 
were made for a translation of Dr. Krause's 
essay, and were completed by the end of April. 
Then my book came out, and in some way or 
other Dr. Krause happened to get hold of it. 
He helped himself — not to much, but to enough ; 
made what other additions to and omissions 
from his article he thought would best meet 
" Evolution, Old and New,'' and then fell to 
condemning that book in a finale that was 

^ Page 60 of this volume. 


meant to be crushing. Nothing was said about 
the revision which Dr. Krause's work had 
undergone, but it was expressly and particu- 
larly declared in the preface that the English 
translation was an accurate version of what 
appeared in the February number of KosmoSy 
and no less expressly and particularly stated 
that my book was published subsequently to 
this. Both these statements are untrue; they 
are in Mr. Darwin's favour and prejudicial to 

All this was done with that well-known 
** happy simplicity " of which the Pall Mall 
Gazette^ December 12, 1879, declared that Mr. 
Darwin was " a master." The final sentence, 
about the "weakness of thought and mental 
anachronism which no one can envy," was 
especially successful. The reviewer in the 
Pall Mall Gazette just quoted from gave it in 
full, and said that it was thoroughly justified. 
He then mused forth a general gnome that the 
** confidence of writers who deal in semi-scientific 
paradoxes is commonly in inverse proportion 
to their grasp of the subject." Again my vanity 
suggested to me that I was the person for whose 
benefit this gnome was intended. My vanity, 
indeed, was well fed by the whole transaction ; 
for I saw that not only did Mr. Darwin, who 


should be the best judge, think my work worth 
notice, but that he did not venture to meet 
it openly. As for Dr. Krause's concluding 
sentence, I thought that when a sentence had 
been antedated, the less it contained about 
anachronism the better. 

Only one of the reviews that I saw of Mr. 
Darwin's " Life of Erasmus Darwin " showed 
any knowledge of the facts. The Popular 
Science Review for January 1880, in flat con- 
tradiction to Mr. Darwin's preface, said that 
only part of Dr. Krause's article was being 
given by Mr. Darwin. This reviewer had 
plainly seen both Kosmos and Mr. Darwin's 

In the same number of the Popular Science 
RevieWy and immediately following the review 
of Mr. Darwin's book, there is a review of 
** Evolution, Old and New.'* The writer of 
this review quotes the passage about mental 
anachronism as quoted by the reviewer in the 
Pall Mall Gazette^ and adds immediately : — 
'* This anachronism has been committed by 
Mr. Samuel Butler in a . . . little volume now 
before us, and it is doubtless to this, which 
appeared while his own work was in progress 
[italics mine], that Dr. Krause alludes in the 
foregoing passage." Considering that the editor 

MR. DAR WIN AND " E VOL UTION;' &-c. 7 1 

of the Popular Science Review and the tran- 
slator of Dr. Krause's article for Mr. Darwin 
are one and the same person, it is likely the 
Popular Science Review is well informed in say- 
ing that my book appeared before Dr. Krause s 
article had been transformed into its present 
shape, and that my book was intended by the 
passage in question. 

Unable to see any way of escaping from a 
conclusion which I could not willingly adopt, I 
thought it best to write to Mr. Darwin, stating 
the facts as they appeared to myself, and asking 
an explanation, which I would have gladly 
strained a good many points to have accepted. 
It is better, perhaps, that I should give my 
letter and Mr. Darwin's answer in full. My 
letter ran thus : — 

^^ January 2, 1880. 

" Charles Darwin, Esq., F.R.S., &a 

" Dear Sir, — Will you kindly refer me to the edition of 
Kosmos which contains the text of Dr. Krause's article on 
Dr. Erasmus Darwin, as translated by Mr. W. S. Dallas ? 

" I have before me the last February number of Kosmos^ 
which appears by your preface to be the one from which Mr. 
Dallas has translated, but his translation contains long and 
important passages which are not in the February number of 
Kosmos, while many passages in the original are omitted in 
the translation. 

"Among the passages introduced are the last six pages of 
the English article, which seem to condemn by anticipation 
the position I have taken as regards Dr. Erasmus Darwin in 


TSTj book,* Evolution, Old and New,' and which I believe I was 
the first to take. The concluding, and therefore, perhaps, 
most prominent sentence of the translation you have given 
to the public stands thus : — 

" * Erasmus Darwin's system was in itself a most signifi- 
cant first step in the path of knowledge his grandson has 
opened up for us, but to wish to revive it at the present 
day, as has actually been seriously attempted, shows a weak- 
ness of thought and a mental anachronism which no man 
can envy.' 

"The Kosmos which has been sent me fi:om Germany 
contains no such passage. 

"As you have stated in your preface that my book. 
* Evolution, Old and New,' appeared subsequently to Dr, 
Krause's article, and as no intimation is given that the 
article has been altered and added to since its original 
appearance, while the accuracy of the translation as though 
from the February number of Kosmos is, as you expressly 
say, guaranteed by Mr. Dallas's 'scientific reputation to- 
gether with his knowledge of German,' your readers will 
naturally suppose that all they read in the translation 
appeared in February last, and therefore before ' Evolution, 
Old and New,' was written, and therefore independently of, 
and necessarily without reference to, that book. 

" I do not doubt that this was actually the case, but have 
failed to obtain the edition which contains the passage above 
referred to, and several others which appear in the translation. 

" I have a personal interest in this matter, and venture, 
therefore, to ask for the explanation, which I do not doubt 
you will readily give me. — ^Yours faithfully, S. Butler." 

The following is Mr. Darwin's answer : — 

*^ January 3, 1880. 

" My Dear Sir, — Dr. Krause, soon after the appearance 
of his article in Kosmos^ told me that he intended to publish 
it separately and to alter it considerably, and the altered MS. 


was sent to Mr. Dallas for translation. This is so common 
a practice that it never occurred to me to state that the 
article had been modified ; but now I much regret that I 
did not do so. The original will soon appear in German, and 
I believe will be a much larger book than the English one ; 
for, with Dr. Krause's consent, many long extracts from 
Miss Seward were omitted (as well as much other matter), 
from being in my opinion superfluous for the English 
reader. I believe that the omitted parts will appear as 
notes in the German edition. Should there be a 
reprint of the English Life, I will state that the original 
as it appeared in Kosmos was modified by Dr. Krause 
before it was translated. I may add that I had obtained 
Dr. Krause's consent for a translation, and had arranged 
with Mr. Dallas before your book was announced. I 
remember this because Mr. Dallas wrote to tell me of the 
advertisement — I remain, yours faithfully, C. Darwin." 

This was not a letter I could accept If Mr, 
Darwin had said that by some inadvertence, 
which he was unable to excuse or account for, a 
blunder had been made which he would at once 
correct so far as was in his power by a letter to 
the Times or the A iAefu^um, and that a notice of 
the erratum should be printed on a flyleaf and 
pasted into all unsold copies of the " Life of 
Erasmus Darwin," there would have been no 
more heard about the matter from me ; but 
when Mr. Darwin maintained that it was a 
common practice to take advantage of an op- 
portunity of revising a work to interpolate a 
covert attack upon an opponent, and at the 


same time to misdate the interpolated matter 
by expressly stating that it appeared months 
sooner than it actually did, and prior to the 
work which it attacked ; when he maintained 
that what was being done was " so common a 
practice that it never occurred" to him — the 
writer of some twenty volumes — to do what all 
literary men must know to be inexorably re- 
quisite, I thought this was going far beyond 
what was permissible in honourable warfare, and 
that it was time, in the interests of literary and 
scientific morality, even more than in my own, 
to appeal to public opinion. I was particularly 
struck with the use of the words " it never 
occurred to me," and felt how completely of 
a piece it was with the opening paragraph of the 
*' Origin of Species." It was not merely that 
it did not occur to Mr. Darwin to state that the 
article had been modified since it was written 
— this would have been bad enough under 
the circumstances — but that it did occur to 
him to go out of his way to say what was not 
true. There was no necessity for him to have 
said anything about my book. It appeared, 
moreover, inadequate to tell me that if a re- 
print of the English Life was wanted (which 
might or might not be the case, and if it was 
not the case, why, a shrug of the shoulders, 

MR. DAR WIN AND « E VOL UTION^' &-c. 7 5 

and I must make the best of it), Mr. Darwin, 
might perhaps silently omit his note about my 
book, as he omitted his misrepresentation of 
the author of the " Vestiges of Creation," and 
put the words "revised and corrected by 
the author " on his title-page. 

No matter how high a writer may stand, nor 
what services he may have unquestfonably 
rendered, it cannot be for the general well- 
being that he should be allowed to set aside 
the fundamental principles of straightforward- 
ness and fair play. When I thought of Buffon, 
of Dr. Erasmus Darwin, of Lamarck, and even 
of the author of the ** Vestiges of Creation," to 
all of whom Mn Darwin had dealt the same 
measure which he was now dealing to myself; 
when I thought of these great men, now dumb, 
who had borne the burden and heat of the day, 
and whose laurels had been filched from them ; 
of the manner, too, in which Mr. Darwin had 
been abetted by those who should have been 
the first to detect the fallacy which had misled 
him ; of the hotbed of intrigue which science 
has now become ; of the disrepute into which 
we English must fall as a nation if such 
practices as Mr. Darwin had attempted in this 
case were to be tolerated ; — when I thought of 
all this, I felt that though prayers for the repose 


of dead men's souls might be unavailing, yet a 
defence of their work and memory, no matter 
against what odds, might avail the living, and 
resolved that I would do my utmost to make 
my countrymen aware of the spirit now ruling 
among those whom they delight to honour. 

At first I thought I ought to continue the 
correspondence privately with Mr. Darwin, and 
explain to him that his letter was insufficient, 
but on reflection I felt that little good was 
likely to come of a second letter, if what I had 
already written was not enough. I therefore 
wrote to the Athenceum and gave a condensed 
account of the facts contained in the last ten or 
a dozen pages. My letter appeared January 
31, 1880.^ 

The accusation was a very grave one ; it was 
made in a very public place. I gave my name ; 
I adduced the strongest primd facie grounds 
for the acceptance of my statements ; but there 
was no rejoinder, and for the best of all rea- 
sons — that no rejoinder was possible. Besides, 
what is the good of having a reputation for 
candour if one may not stand upon it at a 
pinch ? I never yet knew a person with an 
especial reputation for candour without finding 
sooner or later that he had developed it as 

^ See Appendix A. 


animals develop their organs, through "sense 
of need." Not only did Mr. Darwin remain 
perfectly quiet, but all reviewers and littera- 
teurs remained perfectly quiet also. It seemed 
— though I do not for a moment believe that 
this is so — as if public opinion rather approved 
of what Mr. Darwin had done, and of his 
silence than otherwise. I saw the " Life of 
Erasmus Darwin " more frequently and more 
prominently advertised now than I had seen 
it hitherto — perhaps in the hope of selling 
off the adulterated copies, and being able 
to reprint the work with a corrected title- 
page. Presently I saw Professor Huxley 
hastening to the rescue with his lecture on 
the coming of age of the " Origin of Species," 
and by May it was easy for Professor Ray 
Lankester to imply that Mr. Darwin was the 
greatest of living men. I have since noticed 
two or three other controversies raging in 
the AthencBum and Times ; in each of these 
cases I saw it assumed that the defeated party, 
when proved to have publicly misrepresented 
his adversary, should do his best to correct in 
public the injury which he had publicly in- 
flicted, but I noticed that in none of them had 
the beaten side any especial reputation for can- 
dour. This probably made all the difference. 


But however this may be, Mr. Darwin left me 
in possession of the field, in the hope, doubt- 
less, that the matter would blow over — which it 
apparently soon did. Whether it has done so 
in reality or no, is a matter which remains to be 
seen. My own belief is that people paid no 
attention to what I said, as believing it simply 
incredible, and that when they come to know 
that it is true, they will think as I do concern- 
ing it. 

From ladies and gentlemen of science I 
admit that I have no expectations. There 
is no conduct so dishonourable that people 
will not deny it or explain it away, if it has 
been committed by one whom they recognise 
as of their own persuasion. It must be re- 
membered that facts cannot be respected by 
the scientist in the same way as by other 
people. It is his business to familiarise him- 
self with facts, and, as we all know, the path 
from familiarity to contempt is an easy one. 

Here, then, I take leave of this matter for the 
present. If it appears that I have used lan- 
guage, such as is rarely seen in controversy, 
let the reader remember that the occasion is, so 
far as I know, unparalleled for the cynicism and 
audacity with which the wrong complained of 
was committed and persisted in. I trust, how- 

MR. DAR WIN AND " E VOL UTION;' &*c. 7 9 

ever, that, though not indifferent to this, my 
indignation has been mainly roused, as when 
I wrote " Evolution, Old and New," before Mr. 
Darwin had given me personal ground of com- 
plaint against him, by the wrongs he has 
inflicted on dead men, on whose behalf I now 
fight, as I trust that some one — whom I thank 
by anticipation — may one day fight on mine. 

( 8o ) 



After I had finished ** Evolution, Old and 
New," I wrote some articles for the Examiner, 
in which I carried out the idea put forward in 
" Life and Habit," that we are one person with 
our ancestors. It follows from this, that all 
living animals and vegetables, being — as 
appears likely if the theory of evolution is 
accepted — descended from a common ancestor, 
are in reality one person, and unite to form a 
body corporate, of whose existence, however, 
they are unconscious. There is an obvious 
analogy between this and the manner in which 
the component cells of our bodies unite to 
form our single individuality, of which it is not 
likely they have a conception, and with which 
they have probably only the same partial and 
imperfect sympathy as we, the body corporate, 
have with them. In the articles above alluded 
to I separated the organic from the inorganic, 
and when I came to rewrite them, I found that 


this could not be done, and that I must recon- 
struct what I had written. I was at work on 
this — to which I hope to return shortly — when 
Dr. Krause's " Erasmus Darwin," with its pre- 
liminary notice by Mr. Charles Darwin, came 
out, and having been compelled, as I have 
shown above, by Dr. Krause's work to look a 
little into the German language, the oppor- 
tunity seemed favourable for going on with it 
and becoming acquainted with Professor Her- 
ing*s lecture. I therefore began to translate 
his lecture at once, with the kind assistance of 
friends whose patience seemed inexhaustible, 
and found myself well rewarded for my 

Professor Hering and I, to use a metaphor of 
his own, are as men who have observed the 
action of living beings upon the stage of the 
world, he from the point of view at once of a 
spectator and of one who has free access to 
much of what goes on behind the scenes, I 
from that of a spectator only, with none but the 
vaguest notion of the actual manner in which 
the stage machinery is worked. If two men so 
placed, after years of reflection, arrive indepen- 
dently of one another at an identical conclusion 
as regards the manner in which this machinery 
must have been invented and perfected, it is 


natural that each should take a deep interest in 
the arguments of the other, and be anxious to 
put them forward with the utmost possible pro- 
minence. It seems to me that the theory which 
/ Professor Hering and I are supporting in com- 
^ mon, is one the importance of which is hardly 
inferior to that of the theory of evolution itself 
— for it puts the backbone, as it were, into the 
theory of evolution. I shall therefore make no 
apology for laying my translation of Professor 
Hering's work before my reader. 

Concerning the identity of the main idea put 
forward in " Life and Habit " with that of Pro- 
fessor Hering's lecture, there can hardly, I think, 
be two opinions. We both of us maintain that 
we grow our limbs as we do, and possess the 
instincts we possess, because we remember hav- 
ing grown our limbs in this way, and having 
had these instincts in past generations when we 
were in the persons of our forefathers — each 
individual life adding a small (but so small, in 
any one lifetime, as to be hardly appreciable) 
amount of new experience to the general 
store of memory ; that we have thus got into 
certain habits which we can now rarely break ; 
and that we do much of what we do uncon- 
sciously on the same principle as that (what- 
ever it is) on which we do all other habitual 


^•^ . r j^ i^^^-- 


actions with the greater ease and unconscious- 
ness the more often we repeat them. Not only 
is the main idea the same, but I was surprised 
to find how often Professor Hering and I had 
taken the same illustrations with which to point 
our meaning. 

Nevertheless, we have each of us left undealt 
with some points which the other has treated of. 
Professor Hering, for example, goes into the 
question of what memory is, and this I did not 
venture to do. I confined myself to saying that 
whatever memory was, heredity was also. 
Professor Hering adds that memory is due to 
vibrations of the molecules of the nerve fibres, 
which under certain circumstances recur, and 
bring about a corresponding recurrence of visible 

This approaches closely to the theory con- 
cerning the physics of memory which has been 
most generally adopted since the time of Bonnet, 
who wrote as follows : — 

" The soul never has a new sensation but by the inter- 
position of the senses. This sensation has been originally 
attached to the motion of certain fibres. Its reproduction or 
recollection by the senses will then be likewise connected 
with these same fibres." ^ . . . 

^ ** Contemplation of Nature," Engl, trans., Lond. 1776. Preface 
p. xxxvi. 


And again : — 


** It appeared to me that since this memory is connected 
with the! body, it must depend upon some change which 
must happen to the primitive state of the sensible fibres by the 
action of objects. I have, therefore, admitted as probable 
that the state of the fibres on which ah object has acted is 
not precisely the same after this action as it was before. I 
have conjectured that the sensible fibres experience more or 
less durable modifications, which constitute the physics of 
memory and recollection." ^ . . . 

Professor Hering come$ near to endorsing 
this view, and uses it for the purpose of ex- 
plaining personal identity. This, at least, is 
what he does in fact, though perhaps hardly in 
words. I did not say more upon the essence of 
personality than that it was inseparable from 
the idea that the various phases of our existence 
should have flowed one out of the other, '* in 
what we see as a continuous, though it may 
be at times a very troubled, stream ; '' ^ but I 
maintained that the identity between two 
successive generations was of essentially the 
same kind as that existing, between an infant 
and an octogenarian. I thus left personal 
identity unexplained, though insisting that it 
was the key to two apparently distinct sets of 

1 ** Contemplation of Nature," Engl, trans., Lond. 1766. Preface, 
p. xxxviii. 

2 Life and Habit, p. 97. \ 


phenomena, the one of which had been hitherto 
considered incompatible with our ideas con- 
cerning it. Professor Hering insists on this 
too, but he gives us farther insight into what 
personal identity is, and explains how it is that 
the phenomena of heredity are phenomena also 
of personal identity. 

He implies, though in the short space at his 
command he has hardly said so in express 
terms, that personal identity as we commonly 
think of it — that is to say, as confined to the 
single life of the individual — consists in the un- 
interruptedness of a sufficient number of vibra- 
tions, which have been communicated from 
molecule to molecule of the nerve fibres, and 
which go on communicating each one of them 
its own peculiar characteristic elements to the 
new matter which we introduce into the body 
by way of nutrition. These vibrations may be 
so gentle as to be imperceptible for years to- 
gether; but they are there, and may become 
perceived if they receive accession through the 
running into them of a wave going the same 
way as themselves, which wave has been set 
up in the ether by exterior objects and has 
been communicated to the organs of sense. 

As these pages are on the point of leaving 
my hands, I see the following remarkable pas- 


sage in Mind for the current month, and intro- 
duce it parenthetically here : — 

" I followed the sluggish current of hyaline material 
issuing from globules of most primitive living substance. 
Persistently it followed its way into space, conquering, at 
first, the manifold resistances opposed to it by its watery 
medium. Gradually, however, its energies became ex- 
hausted, till at last, completely overwhelmed, it stopped, 
an immovable projection stagnated to death-like rigidity. 
Thus for hours, perhaps, it remained stationary, one of 
many such rays of some of the many kinds of protoplasmic 
stars. By degrees, then, or perhaps quite suddenly, help 
would come to it from foreign but congruous sources. It 
would seem to combine with outside complemental matter 
drifted to it at random. Slowly it would regain thereby 
its vital mobility. Shrinking at first, but gradually com- 
pletely restored and reincorporated into the onward tide of 
life, it was ready to take part again in the progressive flow 
of a new ray." ^ 

To return to the end of the last paragraph 
but one. If this is so — but I should warn the 
reader that Professor Hering is not responsible 
for this suggestion, though it seems to follow so 
naturally from what he has said that I imagine 
he intended the inference to be drawn, — if this 
is so, assimilation is nothing else than the 
communication of its own rhythms from the 
assimilating to the assimilated substance, to the 
efFacement of the vibrations or rhythms hereto- 

^ **The Unity of the Organic Individual," by Edward Montgomery, 
Mind^ Oct. 1880, p. 466. , 


fore existing in this last ; and suitability for food 
will depend upon whether the rhythms of the 
substance eaten are such as to flow harmoni- 
ously into and chime in with those of the 
body which has eaten it, or whether they will 
refuse to act in concert with the new rhythms 
with which they have become associated, and 
will persist obstinately in pursuing their own 
course. In this case they will either be turned 
out of the body at once, or will disconcert its 
arrangements, with perhaps fatal consequences. 
This comes round to the conclusion I arrived 
at in *' Life and Habit," that assimilation was 
nothing but the imbuing of one thing with 
the memories of another. (See " Life and 
Habit," pp. 136, 137, 140, &c.) 

It will be noted that, as I resolved the phe- 
nomena of heredity into phenomena of personal 
identity, and left the matter there, so Professor 
Hering resolves the phenomena of personal 
identity, into the phenomena of a living 
mechanism whose equilibrium is disturbed by 
vibrations of a certain character — and leaves it 
there. We now want to understand more 
about the vibrations. 

But if, according to Professor Hering, the 
personal identity of the single life consists in the 
uninterruptedness of vibrations, so also do the 


phenomena of heredity. For not only may 
vibrations of a certain violence or character be 
persistent unperceived for many years in a 
living body, and communicate themselves to 
the matter it has assimilated, but they may, and 
will, under certain circumstances, extend to the 
particle which is about to leave the parent body 
as the germ of its future offspring. In this 
minute piece of matter there must, if Professor 
Hering is right, be an infinity of rhythmic un- 
dulations incessantly vibrating with more or 
less activity, and ready to be set in more active 
agitation at a moment's warning, under due ac- 
cession of vibration from exterior objects. On 
the occurrence of such stimulus, that is to say, 
when a vibration of a suitable rhythm from 
without concurs with one within the body so as 
to augment it, the agitation may gather such 
strength that the touch, as it were, is given to a 
house of cards, and the whole comes toppling 
over. This toppling over is what we call 
action ; and when it is the result of the dis- 
turbance of certain usual arrangements in cer- 
tain usual ways, we call it the habitual develop- 
ment and instinctive characteristics of the race. 
In either case, then, whether we consider the 
continued identity of the individual in what we 
call his single life, or those features in his off- 


spring which we refer to heredity, the same 
explanation of the phenomena is applicable. 
It follows from this as a matter of course, that 
the continuation of life or personal identity in 
the individual and the race are fundamentally 
of the same kind, or, in other words, that there 
is a veritable prolongation of identity or oneness 
of personality between parents and offspring. 
Professor Hering reaches his conclusion by 
physical methods, while I reached mine, as I am 
told, by metaphysical. I never yet could under- 
stand what " metaphysics " and " metaphysical " 
mean ; but I should have said I reached it by 
the exercise of a little common sense while 
regarding certain facts which are open to every 
one. There is, however, so far as I can see, 
no difference in the conclusion come to. 

The view which connects memory with 
vibrations may tend to throw light upon that 
difficult question, the manner in which neuter 
bees acquire structures and instincts, not one 
of which was possessed by any of their direct 
ancestors. Those who have read " Life and 
Habit** may remember, I suggested that the 
food prepared in the stomachs of the nurse-bees, 
with which the neuter working bees are fed, 
might thus acquire a quasi-seminal character, 
and be made a means of communicating the 


instincts and structures in question.^ If assimi- 
lation be regarded as the receiving by one 
substance of the rhythms or undulations from 
another, the explanation just referred to receives 
an accession of probability. 

If it is objected that Professor Hering's theory 
as to continuity of vibrations being the key 
to memory and heredity involves the action of 
more wheels within wheels than our imagination 
can come near to comprehending, and also that 
it supposes this complexity of action as going 
on within a compass which no unaided eye can 
detect by reason of its littleness, so that we are 
carried into a fairyland with which sober people 
should have nothing to do, it may be answered 
that the case of light affords us an example of 
our being truly aware of a multitude of minute 
actions, the hundred million millionth part of 
which we should have declared to be beyond 
our ken, could we not incontestably prove that 
we notice and count them all with a very 
sufficient and creditable accuracy. 

"Who would not," ^ says Sir John Herschel, 
" ask for demonstration when told that a gnat's 
wing, in its ordinary flight, beats many hundred 

1 Life and Habit, p. 237. 

^ Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy. Lardner's Cab. 
Cyclo., vol. xcix. p. 24. 


times in a second ? or that there exist animated 
and regularly organised beings many thousands 
of whose bodies laid close together would not 
extend to an inch ? But what are these to the 
astonishing truths which modern optical in- 
quiries have disclosed, which teach us that 
every point of a medium through which a ray 
of light passes is affected with a succession 
of periodical movements, recurring regularly 
at equal intervals, no less than five hundred 
millions of millions of times in a second ; that 
it is by such movements communicated to the 
nerves of our eyes that we see ; nay, more, that 
it is the difference in the frequency of their re- 
currence which affects us with the sense of the 
diversity of colour ; that, for instance, in acquir- 
ing the sensation of redness, our eyes are 
affected four hundred and eighty-two millions 
of millions of times ; of yellowness, five hundred 
and forty-two millions of millions of times ; and 
of violet, seven hundred and seven millions of 
millions of times per second?^ Do not such 
things sound more like the ravings of madmen 
than the sober conclusions of people in their 
waking senses ? They are, nevertheless, con- 
clusions to which any one may most certainly 

^ Young's Lectures on Natural Philosophy, ii. 627. See also Phil. 
Trans., i8oi-2. 


arrive who will only be at the pains of examin- 
ing the chain of reasoning by which they have 
been obtained" 

A man counting as hard as he can repeat 
numbers one after another, and never counting 
more than a hundred, so that he shall have no 
long words to repeat, may perhaps count ten 
thousand, or a hundred a hundred times over, 
in an hour. At this rate, counting night and 
day, and allowing no time for rest or refresh- 
ment, he would count one million in four days 
and four hours, or say four days only. To 
count a million a million times over, he would 
require four million days, or roughly ten 
thousand years; for five hundred millions of 
millions, he must have the utterly unrealisable 
period of five million years. Yet he actually goes 
through this stupendous piece of reckoning un- 
consciously hour after hour, day after day, it 
may be for eighty years, q/len in each second of 
daylight ; and how much more by artificial or 
subdued light I do not know. He knows 
whether his eye is being struck five hundred 
millions of millions of times, or only four 
hundred and eighty-two millions of millions of 
times. He thus shows that he estimates or 
counts each set of vibrations, and registers 
them according to his results. If a man writes 


upon the back of a British Museum blotting- 
pad of the common nonpareil pattern, on which 
there are some thousands of small spaces each 
differing in colour from that which is imme- 
diately next to It, his eye will, nevertheless, with- 
out an effort assign its true colour to each one 
of these spaces. This implies that he is all the 
time counting and taking tally of the difference 
in the numbers of the vibrations from each one 
of the small spaces in question. Yet the mind 
that is capable of such stupendous computations 
as these so long as it knows nothing about them, 
makes no little fuss about the conscious adding 
together of such almost inconceivably minute 
numbers as, we will say, 2730169 and 5790135 
— or, if these be considered too large, as 27 and 
19. Let the reader remember that he cannot 
by any effort bring before his mind the units, 
not in ones, but in millions of millions of the 
processes which his visual organs are under- 
going second after second from dawn till dark, 
and then let him demur if he will to the possi- 
bility of the existence in a germ, of currents 
and undercurrents, and rhythms and counter- 
rhythms, also by the million of millions — each 
one of which, on being overtaken by the rhythm 
from without that chimes in with and stimulates 
it, may be the beginning of that unsettlement of 


equilibrium which results in the crash of action, 
unless it is timely counteracted. 

If another objector maintains that the vibra- 
tions within the germ as above supposed must 
be continually crossing and interfering with one 
another in such a manner as to destroy the con- 
tinuity of any one series, it may be replied that 
the vibrations of the light proceeding from the 
objects that surround us traverse one another 
by the millions of millions every second yet in 
no way interfere with one another. Neverthe- 
less, it must be admitted that the difficulties of 
the theory towards which I suppose Professor 
Hering to incline are like those of all other 
theories on the same subject — ^almost incon- 
ceivably great. 

In "Life and Habit" I did not touch upon 
these vibrations, knowing nothing about them. 
Here, then, is one important point of difference, 
not between the conclusions arrived at, but 
between the aim and scope of the work that 
Professor Hering and I severally attempted. 
Another difference consists in the points at 
which we have left off. Professor Hering, 
having established his main thesis, is content. 
I, on the other hand, went on to maintain 
that if vigour was due to memory, want of 
vigour was due to want of memory. Thus 



I was led to connect memory with the pheno- 
mena of hybridism and of old age ; to show 
that the sterility of certain animals under 
domestication is only a phase of, and of a piece 
with, the very common sterility of hybrids — 
phenomena which at first sight have no con- 
nection either with each other or with memory, 
but the connection between which will never 
be lost sight of by those who have once laid 
hold of it. I also pointed out how exactly the 
phenomena of development agreed with those 
of the abeyance and recurrence of memory, and 
the rationale of the fact that puberty in so many 
animals and plants comes about the end of 
development. The principle underlying lon- 
gevity follows as a matter of course. I have 
no idea how far Professor Hering would agree 
with me in the position I have taken in respect 
of these phenomena, but there is nothing in the 
above at variance with his lecture. 

Another matter on which Professor Hering 
has not touched is the bearing of his theory on 
that view of evolution which is now commonly 
accepted. It is plain he accepts evolution, but 
it does not appear that he sees how fatal his 
theory is to any view of evolution except . a 
teleological one — the purpose residing within 
the animal and not without it. There is, how- 


ever, nothing in his lecture to indicate that he 
does not see this. 

It should be remembered that the question 
whether memory is due to the persistence 
within the body of certain vibrations, which 
have been already set up within the bodies of 
its ancestors, is true or no, will not affect the 
position I took up in " Life and Habit." In 
that book I have maintained nothing more 
than that whatever memory is heredity is also. 
I am not committed to the vibration theory of 
memory, though inclined to accept it on a 
primd facie view. All I am committed to is, 
that if memory is due to persistence of vibra- 
tions, so is heredity ; and if memory is not so 
due, then no more is heredity. 

Finally, I may say that Professor Herings 
lecture, the passage quoted from Dr. Erasmus 
Darwin on pp. 40, 41, of this volume, and a few 
hints in the extracts from Mr. Patrick Mathew 
which I have quoted in "Evolution, Old and 
New," are all that I yet know of in other 
writers as pointing to the conclusion that the 
phenomena of heredity are phenomena also of 

( 97 ) 



I WILL now lay before the reader a translation 
of Professor Hering's own words. I have had 
it carefully revised throughout by a gentleman 
whose native language is German, but who has 
resided in England for many years past. The 
original lecture is entitled " On Memory as a 
Universal Function of Organised Matter," and 
was delivered at the anniversary meeting of the 
Imperial Academy of Sciences at Vienna, May 
30, 1870.^ It is as follows : — 

** When the student of Nature quits the nar- 
row workshop of his own particular inquiry, and 
sets out upon an excursion into the vast king- 
dom of philosophical investigation, he does so, 
doubtless, in the hope of finding the answer 
to that great riddle, to the solution of a small 
part of which he devotes his life. Those, how- 
ever, whom he leaves behind him still working 
at their own special branch of inquiry, regard 

^ The lecture is published by Karl Gerold's sohn, Vienna. 



his departure with secret misgivings on his 
behalf, while the born citizens of the kingdom 
of speculation among whom he would naturalise 
himself, receive him with well-authorised dis- 
trust. He is likely, therefore, to lose ground 
with the first, while not gaining it with the 

The subject to the consideration of which I 
would now solicit your attention does certainly 
appear likely to lure us on towards the flattering 
land of speculation, but bearing in mind what 
I have just said, I will beware of quitting the 
department of natural science to which I have 
devoted myself hitherto. I shall, however, 
endeavour to attain its highest point, so as to 
take a freer view of the surrounding territory. 

It will soon appear that I should fail in this 
purpose if my remarks were to confine them- 
selves solely to physiology. I hope to show 
how far psychological investigations also afford 
not only permissible, but indispensable, aid to 
physiological inquiries. 

Consciousness is an accompaniment of that 
animal and human organisation and of that 
material mechanism which it is the province 
of physiology to explore ; and as long as the 
atoms of the brain follow their due course 
according to certain definite laws, there arises 


an inner life which springs from sensation and 
idea, from feeling and will. 

We feel this in our own cases ; it strikes us 
in our converse with other people ; we can see 
it plainly in the more highly organised animals ; 
even the lowest forms of life bear traces of it ; 
and who can draw a line in the kingdom of 
organic life, and say that it is here the soul 
ceases ? 

With what eyes, then, is physiology to regard 
this twofold life of the organised world ? Shall 
she close them entirely to one whole side of it, 
that she may fix them more intently on the 
other ? 

So long as the physiologist is content to be 
a physicist, and nothing more — using the word 
" physicist " in its widest signification — his posi- 
tion in regard to the organic world is one of 
extreme but legitimate one-sidedness. As the 
crystal to the mineralogist or the vibrating 
string to the acoustician, so from this point of 
view both man and the lower animals are to 
the physiologist neither more nor less than 
the matter of which they consist That animals 
feel desire and repugnance, that the material 
mechanism of the human frame is in close 
connection with emotions of pleasure or pain, 
and with the active idea-life of consciousness 


— this cannot, in the eyes of the physicist, make 
the animal or human body into anything more 
than what it actually is. To him it is a combina- 
tion of matter, subjected to the same inflexible 
laws as stones and plants — a material combina- 
tion, the outward and inward movements of 
which interact as cause and effect, and are in as 
close connection with each other and with their 
surroundings as the working of a machine with 
the revolutions of the wheels that compose it. 

Neither sensation, nor idea, nor yet conscious 
will, can form a link in this chain of material 
occurrences which make up the physical life 
of an organism. If I am asked a question 
and reply to it, the material process . which 
the nerve fibre conveys from the organ of 
hearing to the brain must travel through my 
brain as an actual and material process before 
it can reach the nerves which will act upon 
my organs of speech. It cannot, on reaching 
a given place in the brain, change then and 
there into an immaterial something, and turn 
up again some time afterwards in another part 
of the brain as a material process. The traveller 
in the desert might as well hope, before he again 
goes forth into the wilderness of reality, to take 
rest and refreshment in the oasis with which the 
Fata Morgana illudes him ; or as well might a 



prisoner hope to escape from his prison through 
a door reflected in a mirror. 

So much for the physiologist in his capacity 
of pure physicist. As long as he remains 
behind the scenes in painful exploration of the 
details of the machinery — as long as he only 
observes the action of the players from behind 
the stage — so long will he miss the spirit of 
the performance, which is, nevertheless, caught 
easily by one who sees it from the front. May 
he not, then, for once in a way, be allowed to 
change his standpoint ? True, he came not to 
see the representation of an imaginary world ; 
he is in search of the actual ; but surely it must 
help him to a comprehension of the dramatic 
apparatus itself, and of the manner in which it 
is worked, if he were to view its action from 
in front as well as from behind, or at least 
allow himself to hear what sober-minded spec- 
tators can tell him upon the subject. 

There can be no question as to the answer; 
and hence it comes that psychology is such an 
indispensable help to physiology, whose fault 
it only in small part is that she has hitherto 
made such little use of this assistance ; for 
psychology has been late in beginning to till her 
fertile field with the plough of the inductive 
method, and it is only from ground so tilled 


that fruits can spring which can be of service 
to physiology. 

If, then, the student of nervous physiology 
takes his stand between the physicist and the 
psychologist, and if the first of these rightly 
makes the unbroken causative continuity of all 
material processes an axiom of his system of 
investigation, the prudent psychologist, on the 
other hand, will investigate the laws of con- 
scious life according to the inductive method, 
and will hence, as much as the physicist, make 
the existence of fixed laws his initial assump- 
tion. If, again, the most superficial introspec- 
tion teaches the physiologist that his conscious 
life is dependent upon the mechanical adjust- 
ments of his body, and that inversely his body 
is subjected with certain limitations to his will, 
then it only remains for him to make one 
assumption more, namely, iAai this mutual 
interdependence between the spiritual and the 
material is itself also dependent on law, and 
he has discovered the bond by which the 
science of matter and the science of conscious- 
ness are united into a single whole. 

Thus regarded, the phenomena of conscious- 
ness become functions of the material changes 
of organised substance, and inversely — though 
this is involved in the use of the word '*func- 


tion " — the material processes of brain substance 
become functions of the phenomena of con- 
sciousness. For when two variables are so 
dependent upon one another in the changes 
they undergo in accordance with fixed laws 
that a change in either involves simultaneous 
and corresponding change in the other, the one 
is called a function of the other. 

This, then, by no means implies that the two 
variables abovenamed — matter and conscious- 
ness — stand in the relation of cause and effect, 
antecedent and consequence, to one another. 
For on this subject we know nothing. The 
materialist regards consciousness as a product 
or result of matter, while the idealist holds 
matter to be a result of consciousness, and 
a third maintains that matter and spirit are 
identical ; with all this the physiologist, as 
such, has nothing whatever to do ; his sole 
concern is with the fact that matter and con- 
sciousness are functions one of the other. 

By the help of this hypothesis of the func- 
tional interdependence of matter and spirit, 
modern physiology is enabled to bring the 
phenomena of consciousness within the domain 
of her investigations without leaving the terra 
firma of scientific methods. The physiologist, 
as physicist, can follow the ray of light and 


the wave of sound or heat till they reach the 
organ of sense. He can watch them entering 
upon the ends of the nerves, and finding their 
way to the cells of the brain by means of the 
series of undulations or vibrations which they 
establish in the nerve filaments. Here, how- 
ever, he loses all trace of them. On the other 
hand, still looking with the eyes of a pure 
physicist, he sees sound waves of speech issue 
from the mouth of a speaker; he observes 
the motion of his own limbs, and finds how 
this is conditional upon muscular contractions 
occasioned by the motor nerves, and how these 
nerves are in their turn excited by the cells 
of the central organ. But here again his know- 
ledge comes to an end. True, he sees indica- 
tions of the bridge which is to carry him from 
excitation of the sensory to that of the motor 
nerves in the labyrinth of intricately inter- 
woven nerve cells, but he knows nothing of 
the inconceivably complex process which is 
introduced at this stage. Here the physio- 
logist will change his standpoint ; what matter 
will not reveal to his inquiry, he will find in 
the mirror, as it were, of consciousness ; by 
way of a reflection, indeed, only, but a reflec- 
tion, nevertheless, which stands in intimate 
relation to the object of his inquiry. When 


at this point he observes how one idea gives 
rise to another, how closely idea is connected 
with sensation and sensation with will, and 
how thought, again, and feeling are insepar- 
able from one another, he will be compelled 
to suppose corresponding successions of 
material processes, which generate and are 
closely connected with one another, and which 
attend the whole machinery of conscious life, 
according to the law of the functional inter- 
dependence of matter and consciousness. 

After this explanation I shall venture to 
regard under a single aspect a great series 
of phenomena which apparently have nothing 
to do with one another, and which belong 
partly to the * conscious and partly to the 
unconscious life of organised beings. I shall 
regard them as the outcome of one and the 
same primary force of organised matter — 
namely, its memory or power of reproduc- 

The word "memory" is often understood as 
though it meant nothing more than our faculty 
of intentionally reproducing ideas or series of 
ideas. But when the figures and events of 
bygone days rise up again unbidden in our 


minds, is not this also an act of recollection 
or memory ? We have a perfect right to 
extend our coj;iception of memory so as to 
make it embrace involuntary reproductions 
of sensations, ideas, perceptions, and efforts; 
but we find, on having done so, that we have 
so far enlarged her boundaries that she proves 
to be an ultimate and original power, the source, 
and at the same time the unifying bond, of our 
whole conscious life. 

We know that when an impression, or a 
series of impressions, has been made upon 
our senses for a long time, and always in the 
same way, it may come to impress itself in 
such a manner upon the so-called sense- 
memory that hours afterwards, and though 
a hundred other things have occupied our 
attention meanwhile, it will yet return sud- 
denly to our consciousness with all the force 
and freshness of the original sensation. A 
whole group of sensations is sometimes re- 
produced in its due sequence as regards time 
and space, with so much reality that it illudes 
us, as though things were actually present 
which have long ceased to be so. We have 
here a striking proof of the fact that after 
both conscious sensation and perception have 
been extinguished, their material vestiges yet 


remain in our nervous system by way of a 
change in its molecular or atomic disposition/ 
that enables the nerve substance to reproduce 
all the physical processes of the original sensa- 
tion, and with these the corresponding psychical 
processes of sensation and perception. 

Every hour the phenomena of sense-memory 
are present with each one of us, but in a less 
degree than this. We are all at times aware 
of a host of more or less faded recollections of 
earlier impressions, which we either summon 
intentionally or which come upon us involun- 
tarily. Visions of absent people come and go 
before us as faint and fleeting shadows, and the 
notes of long-forgotten melodies float around 
us, not actually heard, but yet perceptible. 

Some things and occurrences, especially if 
they have happened to us only once and 
hurriedly, will be reproducible by the memory 
in respect only of a few conspicuous qualities ; 
in other cases those details alone will recur to 
us which we have met with elsewhere, and for 
the reception of which the brain is, so to speak, 
attuned. These last recollections find them- 
selves in fuller accord with our consciousness, 
and enter upon it more easily and energetically ; 
hence also their aptitude for reproduction is 

^ See quotation from Bonnet, p. 84 of this volume. 



enhanced; so that what is common to many 
things, and is therefore felt and perceived with 
exceptional frequency, becomes reproduced so 
easily that eventually the actual presence of 
the corresponding external stimuli is no longer 
necessary, and it will recur on the vibrations 
set up by faint stimuli from within/ Sensa- 
tions arising in this way from within, as, for 
example, an idea of whiteness, are not, indeed, 
perceived with the full freshness of those 
raised by the actual presence of white light 
without us, but they are of the same kind ; 
they are feeble repetitions of one and the 
same material brain process— of one and the 
same conscious sensation. Thus the idea of 
whiteness arises in our mind as a faint, almost 
extinct, sensation. 

In this way those qualities which are common 
to many things become separated, as it were. 

^ Professor Hering is not clear here. Vibrations (if I understand his 
theory rightly) should not be set up by faint stimuli from within. 
Whence and what are these stimuli f The vibrations within are already 
existing, and it is they which are the stimuli to action. On having 
been once set up, they either continue in sufficient force to maintain 
action, or they die down, and become too weak to cause further action, 
and perhaps even to be perceived within the mind, until they receive 
an accession of vibration from without. The only "stimulus from 
within" that should be able to generate action is that which may 
follow when a vibration already established in the body runs into 
another similar vibration already so established. On this consciousness, 
and even action, might be supposed to follow without the presence of 
an external stim\ilus. — £d. 


in our memory from the objects with which 
they were originally associated, and attain an 
independent existence in our consciousness 
as ideas and conceptions^ and thus the whole 
rich superstructure of our ideas and concep- 
tions is built up from materials supplied by 

On examining more closely, we see plainly 
that memory is a faculty not only of our con- 
scious states, but also, and much more so, of 
our unconscious ones. I was conscious of this 
or that yesterday, and am again conscious of it 
to-day. Where has it been meanwhile ? It 
does not remain continuously within my con- 
sciousness, nevertheless it returns after having 
quitted it Our ideas tread but for a moment 
upon the stage of consciousness, and then go 
back again behind the scenes, to make way for 
others in their place. As the player is only a 
king when he is on the stage, so they too exist 
as ideas so long only as they are recognised. 
How do they live when they are off the stage } 
For we know that they are living somewhere ; 
give them their cue and they reappear im- 
mediately. They do not exist continuously as 
ideas; what is continuous is the special dis- 
position of nerve substance in virtue of which 
this substance gives out to-day the same sound 


which it gave yesterday if it is rightly struck.^ 
Countless reproductions of organic processes of 
our brain connect themselves orderly together, 
so that one acts as a stimulus to the next, but 
a phenomenon of consciousness is not neces- 
sarily attached to every link in the chain. 
From this it arises that a series of ideas may 
appear to disregard the order that would be 
observed in purely material processes of brain 
substance unaccompanied by consciousness ; but 
on the other hand it becomes possible for a long 
chain of recollections to have its due develop- 
ment without each link in the chain being 
necessarily perceived by ourselves. One may 
emerge from the bosom of our unconscious 
thoughts without fully entering upon the stage 
of conscious perception ; another dies away in 
unconsciousness, leaving no successor to take 
its place. Between the "me" of to-day and 
the "me" of yesterday lie night and sleep, 
abysses of unconsciousness; nor is there any 
bridge but memory with which to span them. 
Who can hope after this to disentangle the 
infinite intricacy of our inner life ? For we can 

^ This expression seems hardly applicable to the overtaking of an 
internal by an external vibration, but it is not inconsistent with it. 
Here, however, as frequently elsewhere, I doubt how far Professor 
Hering has fully realised his conception, beyond being, like myself, 
convinced that the phenomena of memory and of heredity have 
common source. — Ed. 


only follow its threads so far as they have 
strayed over within the bounds of conscious- 
ness. We might as well hope to familiarise 
ourselves with the world of forms that teem 
within the bosom of the sea by observing the 
few that now and again come to the surface 
and soon return into the deep. 

The bond of union, therefore, which connects 
the individual phenomena of our consciousness 
lies in our unconscious world ; and as we know 
nothing of this but what investigation into the 
laws of matter teach us — as, in fact, for purely 
experimental purposes, " matter " and the '* un- 
conscious " must be one and the same thing — 
so the physiologist has a full right to denote 
memory as, in the wider sense of the word, a 
function of brain substance, whose results, it is 
true, fall, as regards one part of them, into the 
domain of consciousness, while another and not 
less essential part escapes unperceived as purely 
material processes. 

The perception of a body in space is a very 
complicated process. I see suddenly before 
me, for example, a white ball. This has the 
effect of conveying to me more than a mere 
sensation of whiteness. I deduce the spherical 
character of the ball from the gradations of 
light and shade upon its surface. I form a cor- 


rect appreciation of its distance from my eye, 
and hence again I deduce an inference as to 
the size of the ball. What an expenditure of 
sensations, ideas, and inferences is found to be 
necessary before all this can be brought about ; 
yet the production of a correct perception of 
the ball was the work only of a few seconds, 
and I was unconscious of the individual pro- 
cesses by means of which it was effected, the 
result as a whole being alone present in my 

The nerve substance preserves faithfully the 
memory of habitual actions.^ Perceptions which 
were once long and difficult, requiring constant 
and conscious attention, come to reproduce 
themselves in transient and abridged guise, 
without such duration and intensity that each 
link has to pass over the threshold of our con- 

We have chains of material nerve processes 
to which eventually a link, becomes attached 
that is attended with conscious perception. 
This is sufficiently established from the stand- 
point of the physiologist, and is also proved by 
our unconsciousness of many whole series of 

1 See quotation from Bonnet, p. 84 of this volume. By ** preserving 
the memory of habitual actions'* Professor Hiring probably means, 
retains for a long while and repeats motion of a fcertain character when 
such motion has been once communicated to it.A-£D. 


ideas and of the inferences we draw from them. 
If the soul is not to slip through the fingers of 
physiology, she must hold fast to the considera- 
tions suggested by our unconscious states.. As 
far, however, as the investigations of the pure 
physicist are concerned, the unconscious and 
matter are one and the same thing, and the 
physiology of the unconscious is no ** philosophy 
of the unconscious." 

By far the greater number of our movements 
are . the result of long and arduous practice. 
The harmonious co-operation of the separate 
muscles, the finely adjusted measure of partici- 
pation which each contributes to the working 
of the whole, must, as a rule, have been labori- 
ously acquired, in respect of most of the move- 
ments that are necessary in order to effect it. 
How long does it not take each note to find its 
way from the eyes to the fingers of one who is 
beginning to learn the pianoforte ; and, on the 
other hand, what an astonishing performance 
is the playing of the professional pianist. The 
sight of each note occasions the corresponding 
movement of the fingers with the speed of 
thought — ^a hurried glance at the page of music 
before him suffices to give rise to a whole series 
of harmonies; nay, when a melody has been 
long practised, it can be played even while the 



player's attention is being given to something 
of a perfectly different character over and above 
his music 

The will need now no longer wend its way 
to each individual finger before the desired 
movements can be extorted from it ; no longer 
now does a sustained attention keep watch 
over the movements of each limb ; the will need 
exercise a supervising control only. At the 
word of command the muscles become active, 
with a due regard to time and proportion, and 
go on working, so long as they are bidden to 
keep in their accustomed groove, while a slight 
hint on the part of the will, will indicate to 
them their further journey. How could all 
this be if every part of the centi'al nerve 
system, by means of which movement is 
effected, were not able^ to reproduce whole 
series of vibrations, which at an earlier date 
required the constant and continuous partici- 
pation of consciousness, but which are now set 
in motion automatically on a mere touch, as it 
were, from consciousness — if it were not able 
to reproduce them the more quickly and easily 
in proportion to the frequency of the repeti- 

1 It should not be "if the central nerve system were not able to 
reproduce whole series of vibrations,*' but " if whole series of vibrations 
did not persist though unperceived," if Professor Hering intends what 
I suppose him to intend. — ^£d. 


tions — if, in fact, there was no power of recol- 
lecting earlier performances? Our perceptive 
faculties must have remained always at their 
lowest stage if we had been compelled to build 
up consciously every process from the details of 
the sensation-causing materials tendered to us by 
our senses ; nor could our voluntary movements 
have got beyond the helplessness of the child, if 
the necessary impulses could only be imparted 
to every movement through effort of the will 
and conscious reproduction of all the corre- 
sponding ideas — if, in a word, the motor nerve 
system had not also its memory,^ though that 
memory is unperceived by ourselves. The 
power of this memory is what is called "the 
force of habit." 

It seems, then, that we owe to memory 
almost all that we either have or are ; that 
our ideas and conceptions are its work, and 
that our every perception, thought, and move- 
ment is derived from this source. Memory 
collects the countless phenomena of our exist- 
ence into a single whole; and as our bodies 
would be scattered into the dust of their com- 

^ Memory was in full operation for so long a time before anything 
like what we call a nervous system can be detected, that Professor 
Hering must not be supposed to be intending to confine memory to a 
motor-nerve system. His words do not even imply that he does, but 
it is as well to be on one's guard. — £d. 

1 1 6 UNCO NSC 10 US MEM OR K 

ponent atoms if they were not held together 
by the attraction of matter, so our consciousness 
would be broken up into as many fragments as 
we had lived seconds but for the binding and 
unifying force of memory. 

We have already repeatedly seen that the 
reproductions of organic processes, brought 
about by means of the memory of the nervous 
system, enter but partly within the domain of 
consciousness, remaining unperceived in other 
and not less important respects. This is also 
confirmed by numerous facts in the life of that 
part of the nervous system which ministers 
almost exclusively to our unconscious life pro- 
cesses. For the memory of the so - called 
sympathetic ganglionic system is no less rich 
than that of the brain and spinal marrow, and a 
great part of the medical art consists in making 
wise use of the assistance thus afforded us. 

To bring, however, this part of my observa- 
tions to a close, I will take leave of the nervous 
system, and glance hurriedly at other phases of 
organised matter, where we meet with the same 
powers of reproduction, but in simpler guise. 

Daily experience teaches us that a muscle 
becomes the stronger the more we use it. The 
muscular fibre, which in the first instance may 
have answered but feebly to the stimulus con- 


ducted to it by the motor nerve, does so with 
the greater energy the more often it is stimu- 
lated, provided, of course, that reasonable times 
are allowed for repose. After each individual 
action it becomes more capable, more disposed 
towards the same kind of work, and has a 
greater aptitude for repetition of the same 
organic processes. It gains also in weight, 
for it assimilates more matter than when con- 
stantly at rest. We have here, in its simplest 
form, and in a phase which comes home most 
closely to the comprehension of the physicist, 
the same power of reproduction which we 
encountered when we were dealing with nerve 
substance, but under such far more complicated 
conditions. And what is known thus certainly 
from muscle substance holds good with greater 
or less plainness for all our organs. M ore especi- 
ally may we note the fact, that after increased 
use, alternated with times of repose, there 
accrues to the organ in all animal economy an 
increased power of execution with an increased 
power of assimilation and a gain in size. 

This gain in size consists not only in the 
enlargement of the individual cells or fibres of 
which the organ is composed, but in the mul- 
tiplication of their number ; for when cells have 
grown to a certain size they give rise to others, 


which inherit more or less completely the 
qualities of those from which they came, and 
therefore appear to be repetitions of the same 
cell. This growth and multiplication of cells is 
only a special phase of those manifold functions 
which characterise organised matter, and which 
consist not only in what goes on within the 
cell substance as alterations or undulatory 
movement of the molecular disposition, but also 
in that which becomes visible outside the cells 
as change of shape, enlargement, or subdivision. 
Reproduction of performance, therefore, mani- 
fests itself to us as reproduction of the cells 
themselves, as may be seen most plainly in the 
case of plants, whose chief work consists in 
growth, whereas with animal organism other 
faculties greatly preponderate. 

Let us now take a brief survey of a class of 
facts in the case of which we may most abun- 
dantly observe the power of memory in organ- 
ised matter. We have ample evidence of the 
fact that characteristics of an organism may 
descend to offspring which the organism did 
not inherit, but which it acquired owing to 
the special circumstances under which it lived ; 
and that, in consequence, every organism im- 
parts to the germ that issues from it a small 


heritage of acquisitions which it has added 
during its own lifetime to the gross inheritance 
of its race. 

When we reflect that we are dealing with the 
heredity of acquired qualities which came to 
development in the most diverse parts of the 
parent organism, it must seem in a high degree 
mysterious how those parts can have any kind 
of influence upon a germ which develops itself 
in an entirely different place. Many mystical 
theories have been propounded for the elucida- 
tion of .this question, but the following reflections 
may serve to bring the cause nearer to the 
comprehension of the physiologist 

The nerve substance, in spite of its thousand- 
fold subdivision as cells and fibres, forms, never- 
theless, a united whole, which is present directly, 
in all organs — nay, as more recent histology 
conjectures, in each cell of the more important 
organs — or is at least in ready communication 
with them by means of the living, irritable, and 
therefore highly conductive substance of other 
cells. Through the connection thus established 
all organs find themselves in such a condition 
of more or less mutual interdependence upon 
one another, that events which happen to one 
are repeated in others, and a notification, how- 


ever slight, of a vibration set up^ in one quarter 
is at once conveyed even to the farthest parts 
of the body. With this easy and rapid inter- 
course between all parts is associated the more 
difficult communication that goes on by way of 
the circulation of sap or blood. 

We see, further, that the process of the deve- 
lopment of all germs that are marked out for in- 
dependent existence causes a powerful reaction, 
even from the very beginning of that existence, 
on both the conscious and unconscious life of 
the whole organism. We may see this from 
the fact that the organ of reproduction stands 
in closer and more important relation to the 
remaining parts, and especially to the nervous, 
system, than do the other organs ; and, inversely, 
that both the perceived and unperceived events 
affecting the whole organism find a more marked 
response in the reproductive system than else- 

We can now see with sufficient plainness in 
what way the material connection is established 
between the acquired peculiarities of an organ- 
ism, and the proclivity on the part of the germ 
in virtue of which it develops the special char- 
acteristics of its parent. 

^ It is from such passages as this, and those that follow on the next 
few pages, that I collect the impression of Professor Hering's meaning 
which I have endeavoured to convey in the preceding chapter. — £d. 


The microscope teaches us that no difference 
can be perceived between one germ and another ; 
it cannot, however, be objected on this account 
that the determining cause of its ulterior de- 
velopment must be something immaterial, rather 
than the specific kind of its material constitu- 

The curves and surfaces which the mathe- 
matician conceives, or finds conceivable, are 
more varied and infinite than the forms of 
animal life. Let us suppose an infinitely small 
segment to be taken from every possible curve ; 
each one of these will appear as like every other 
as one germ is to another, yet the whole of every 
curve lies dormant, as it were, in each of them, 
and if the mathematician chooses to develop it, 
it will take the path indicated by the elements 
of each segment. 

It is an error, therefore, to suppose that such 
fine distinctions as physiology must assume lie 
beyond the limits of what is conceivable by the 
human mind. An infinitely small change of 
position on the part of a point, or in the rela- 
tions of the parts of a segment of a curve to 
one another, suffices to alter the law of its 
whole path, and so in like manner an in- 
finitely small influence exercised by the parent 
organism on the molecular disposition of the 


germ^ may suffice to produce a determining 
effect upon its whole farther development 

What is the descent of special peculiarities 
but a reproduction on the part of organised 
matter of processes in which it once took part 
as a germ in the germ-containing organs of its 
parent, and of which it seems still to retain a 
recollection that reappears when time and the 
occasion serve, inasmuch as it responds to the 
same or like stimuli in a like way to that in 
which the parent organism responded, of which 
it was once part, and in the events of whose his- 
tory it was itself also an accomplice ? ^ When 
an action through long habit or continual 
practice has become so much a second nature 
to any organisation that its effects will pene- 
trate, though ever so faintly, into the germ that 
lies within it, and when this last comes to find 
itself in a new sphere, to extend itself, and 

1 That is to say, " an infinitely small change in the kind of vibration 
communicated from the parent to the germ.** — Ed. 

^ It may be asked what is meant by responding. I may repeat that 
I understand Professor Hering to mean that there exists in the offspring 
certain vibrations, which are many of them too faint to upset equilibrium 
and thus generate action, until they receive an accessicm of force from 
without by the running into them of vibrations of similar characteristics 
to their own, which last vibrations have been set up by exterior objects. 
On this they become strong enough to generate that corporeal earthquake 
which we call action. 

This may be true or not, but it is at any rate intelligible ; whereas 
much that is written about ''fraying channels'* raises no definite ideas 
in the mind. — Ed. 


develop into a new creature — (the individual 
parts of which are still always the creature itself 
and flesh of its flesh, so that what is repro- 
duced is the same being ks that in company 
with which the germ once lived, and of which 
it was once actually a part) — all this is as won- 
derful as when a greyhaired man remembers the 
events of his own childhood ; but it is not more 
so. Whether we say that the same organised 
substance is again reproducing its past expe- 
rience, or whether we prefer to hold that an 
offshoot or part of the original substance has 
waxed and developed itself since separation 
from the parent stock, it is plain that this will 
constitute a difference of degree, not kind. 

When we reflect upon the fact that unimportant 
acquired characteristics can be reproduced in 
offspring, we are apt to forget that offspring is 
only a full-sized reproduction of the parent — a 
reproduction, moreover, that goes as far as 
possible into detail. We are so accustomed to 
consider family resemblance a matter of course, 
that we are sometimes surprised when a child 
is in some respect unlike its parent; surely, 
however, the infinite number of points in re- 
spect of which parents and children resemble 
one another is a more reasonable ground for 
our surprise. 


> But if the substance of the germ can repro- 

duce characteristics acquired by the parent 
during its single life, how much more will it 
not be able to reproduce those that were con- 
genital to the parent, and which have happened 
through countless generations to the organised 
matter of which the germ of to-day is a frag- 
ment ? We cannot wonder that action already 
taken on innumerable past occasions by orga- 
nised matter is more deeply impressed upon the 
recollection of the germ to which it gives rise than 
action taken once only during a single lifetime/ 
We must bear in mind that every organised 
being now in existence represents the last link 
of an inconceivably long series of organisms, 
which come down in a direct line of descent, 
and of which each has inherited a part of the 
acquired characteristics of its predecessor. 
Everything, furthermore, points in the direc- 
tion of our believing that at the beginning of 
this chain there existed an organism of the very 
simplest kind, something, in fact, like those which 
we call organised germs. The chain of living 
beings thus appears to be the magnificent 
achievement of the reproductive power of the 

^ I interpret this, "We cannot wonder if often-repeated vibrations 
gather strength, and become at once more lasting and requiring less 
accession of vibration from without, in order to become strong enough 
to generate action." — Ed, 


original organic structure from which they have 
all descended. As this subdivided itself and 

transmitted its characteristics* to its descend- 


ants, these acquired new ones, and in their 
turn transmitted them — all new germs trans- 
mitting the chief part of what had happened 
to their predecessors, while the remaining part 
lapsed out of their memory, circumstances not 
stimulating it to reproduce itself. 

An organised being, therefore, stands before 
us a product of the unconscious memory of 
organised matter, which, ever increasing and 
ever dividing itself, ever assimilating new matter 
and returning it in changed shape to the inor- 
ganic world, ever receiving some new thing 
into its memory, and transmitting its acquisi- 
tions by way of reproduction, grows continually 
richer and richer the longer it lives. 

Thus regarded, the development of one of 
the more highly organised animals represents a 
continuous series of organised recollections con- 
cerning the past development of the great chain 
of living forms, the last link of which stands 
before us in the particular animal we may be 
considering. As a complicated perception may 
arise by means of a rapid and superficial repro- 

1 ** Characteristics " must, I imagine, according to Professor Hering, 
resolve themselves ultimately into "vibrations,** for the characteristics 
depend upon the character of the vibrations. — Ed. 


duction of long and laboriously practised brain 
processes, so a germ in the course of its deve- 
lopment hurries through a series of phases, 
hinting at them only. Often and long fore- 
shadowed in theories of varied characters, this 
conception has only now found correct exposition 
from a naturalist of our own time.^ For Truth 
hides herself under many disguises from those 
who seek her, but in the end stands unveiled 
before the eyes of him whom she has chosen. 

Not only is there a reproduction of form, 
outward and inner conformation of body, organs, 
and cells, but the habitual actions of the 
parent are also reproduced. The chicken on 
emerging from the eggshell runs off as its 
mother ran off before it ; yet what an extra- 
ordinary complication of emotions and sensa- 
tions is necessary in order to preserve equili- 
brium in running. Surely the supposition of 
an inborn capacity for the reproduction of these 
intricate actions can alone explain the facts. 
As habitual practice becomes a second nature 
to the individual during his single lifetime, so 
the often-repeated action of each generation 
becomes a second nature to the race. 

The chicken not only displays great dex- 
terity in the performance of movements for the 

^ I have been unable to discover who this naturalist is. — £d. 


effecting of which it has an innate capacity, 
but it exhibits also a tolerably high perceptive 
power. It immediately picks up any grain 
that may be thrown to it. Yet, in order to 
do this, more is wanted than a mere visual 
perception of the grains ; there must be an 
accurate apprehension of the direction and 
distance of the precise spot in which each 
grain is lying, and there must be no less 
accuracy in the adjustment of the movements 
of the head and of the whole body. The 
chicken cannot have gained experience in these 
respects while it was still in the egg. It gained 
it rather from ,the thousands of thousands of 
beings that have lived before it, and from 
which it is directly descended. 

The memory of organised substance displays 
itself here in the most surprising fashion. The 
gentle stimulus of the light proceeding from 
the grain that affects the retina of the chicken,^ 
gives occasion for the reproduction of a many- 
linked chain of sensations, perceptions, and emo- 
tions, which were never )^t brought together 
in the case of the individual before us. We 
are accustomed to regard these surprising per- 

^ This is the passage which makes me suppose Professor Hering to 
mean that vibrations from exterior objects run into vibrations already 
existing within the living body, and that the accession of power thus 
derived is his. key to an explanation of the physical basis of action. — Ed. 


formances of animals as manifestations of what 
we call instinct, and the mysticism of natural 
philosophy has ever ^hown a predilection for 
this theme; but if we regard instinct as the 
outcome of the memory or reproductive power 
of organised substance, and if we ascribe a 
memory to the race, as we already ascribe it 
to the individual, then instinct becomes at once 
intelligible, and the physiologist at the same 
time finds a point of contact which will bring it 
into connection with the great series of facts 
indicated above as phenomena of the reproduc- 
tive faculty. Here, then, we have a physical 
explanation which has not, indeed, been given 
yet, but the time for which appears to be 
rapidly approaching. 

When, in accordance with its instinct, the 
caterpillar becomes a chrysalis, or the bird 
builds its nest, or the bee its cell, these 
creatures act consciously and not as blind 
machines. They know how to vary their pro- 
ceedings within certain limits in conformity with 
altered circumstances, and they are thus liable 
to make mistakes. They feel pleasure when 
their work advances and pain if it is hindered ; 
they learn by the experience thus acquired, and 
build on a second occasion better than on the 
first; but that even in the outset they hit so 


readily upon the most judicious way of achiev- 
ing their purpose, and that their movements 
adapt themselves so admirably and automati- 
cally to the end they have in view — surely this 
is owing to the inherited acquisitions of the 
memory of their nerve substance, which requires 
but a touch and it will fall at once to the most 
appropriate kind of activity, thinking always, 
and directly, of whatever it is that may be 

Man can readily acquire surprising kinds of 
dexterity if he confines his attention to their 
acquisition. Specialisation is the mother of 
proficiency. He who marvels at the skill with 
which the spider* weaves her web should bear 
in mind that she did not learn her art all on 
a sudden, but that innumerable generations of 
spiders acquired it toilsomely and step by step 
— this being about all that, as a general rule, 
they did acquire. Man took to bows and 
arrows if his nets failed him — the spider starved. 
Thus we see the body and — what most con- 
cerns us — the whole nervous system of the 
new-born animal constructed beforehand, and, 
as it were, ready attuned for intercourse with 
the outside world in which it is about to play 
its part, by means of its tendency to respond 

to external stimuli in the same manner as it has 



often heretofore responded in the persons of its 

We naturally ask whether the brain and 
nervous system of the human infant are sub- 
jected to the principles we have laid down 
above ? Man certainly finds it difificult to 
acquire arts of which the lower animals are 
born masters ; but the brain of man at birth is 
much farther from its highest development than 
is the brain of an animal. It not only grows 
for a longer time, but it becomes stronger than 
that of other living beings. The brain of man 
may be said to be exceptionally young at birth. 
The lower animal is born precocious, and acts 
precociously ; it resembles those infant prodigies 
whose brain, as it were, is born old into the 
world, but who, in spite of, or rather in addition 
to, their rich endowment at birth, in after life 
develop as much mental power as others who 
were less splendidly furnished to start with, but 
born with greater freshness of youth. Man's 
brain, and indeed his whole body, affords greater 
scope for individuality, inasmuch as a relatively 
r part of it is of post-natal growth. It 
)ps under the influence of impressions 
by the environment upon its senses, and 
lakes its acquisitions in a more special and 
lual manner, whereas the animal receives 



them ready made, and of a more final, stereo- 
typed character. 

Nevertheless, it is plain we must ascribe 
both to the brain and body of the new-born 
infant a far-reaching power of remembering or 
reproducing things which have already come 
to their development thousands of times over 
in the persons of its ancestors. It is in virtue 
of this that it acquires proficiency in the actions 
necessary for its existence — so far as it was not 
already at birth proficient in them — much more 
quickly and easily than would be otherwise 
possible ; but what we call instinct in the case 
of animals takes in man the looser form of 
aptitude, talent, and genius.^ Granted that cer- 
tain ideas are not innate, yet the fact of their 
taking form so easily and certainly from out of 
the chaos of his sensations, is due not to his own 
labour, but to that of the brain substance of the 
thousands of thousands of generations from 
whom he is descended. Theories concerning 
the development of individual consciousness 

^ I interpret this : "There are fewer vibrations persistent within the 
bodies of the lower animals ; those that there are, therefore, are stronger 
and more capable of generating action or upsetting the status in quo. 
Hence also they require less accession of vibration from without Man 
is agitated by more and more varied vibrations ; these, interfering, as 
to some extent they must, with one another, are weaker, and therefore 
require more accession from without before they can set the mechanical 
adjustments of the body in motion. ** — Ed. 


which deny heredity or the power of transmis- 
sion, and insist upon an entirely fresh start for 
every human soul, as though the infinite number 
of generations that have gone before us might 
as well have never lived for all the effect they 
have had upon ourselves, — such theories will 
contradict the facts of our daily experience at 
every touch and turn. 

The brain processes and phenomena of con- 
sciousness which ennoble man in the eyes of 
his fellows have had a less ancient history 
than those connected with his physical needs. 
Hunger and the reproductive instinct affected 
the oldest and simplest forms of the organic 
world. It is in respect of these instincts, there- 
fore, and of the means to gratify them, that 
the memory of organised substance is strongest 
— the impulses and instincts that arise hence 
having still paramount power over the minds 
of men. The spiritual life has been super- 
added slowly ; its most splendid outcome 
'angs to the latest epoch in the history of 
anised matter, nor has any very great 
3;th of time elapsed since the nervous system 
! first crowned with the glory of a large and 
1-developed brain. 

)rtd tradition and written history have been 
ed the memory of man, and this is not 


without its truth. But there is another and 
a living memory in the innate reproductive 
power of brain substance, and without this 
both writings and oral tradition would be 
without significance to posterity. The most 
sublime ideas, though never so immortalised 
in speech or letters, are yet nothing for heads 
that are out of harmony with them ; they must 
be not only heard, but reproduced ; and both 
speech and writing would be in vain were 
there not an inheritance of inward and outward 
brain development, growing in correspondence 
with the inheritance of ideas that are handed 
down from age to age, and did not an en- 
hanced capacity for their reproduction on the 
part of each succeeding generation accompany 
the thoughts that have been preserved in 
writing. Man's conscious memory comes to 
an end at death, but the unconscious memory 
of Nature is true and ineradicable : whoever 
succeeds in stamping upon her the impress 
of his work, she will remember him to the end 
of time. 

( 134 ) 



UPON leiSTiNCT ly voir hartkan!^s "philosophy 


I AM afraid my readers will find the chapter 
on instinct from Von Hartmann's " Philosophy 
of the Unconscious," which will now follow, 
as distasteful to read as I did to translate, 
and would gladly have spared it them if I 
could. At present, the works of Mr. Sully, 
who has treated of the " Philosophy of 
the Unconscious " both in the Westminster 
Review {vol. xlix. n.s.) and in his work " Pessi- 
mism," are the best source to which English 
readers can have recourse for information con- 
cerning Von Hartmann. Giving him all credit 
for the pains he has taken with an ungrateful, 
if not impossible subject, I think that a suffi- 
cient sample of Von Hartmann's own words will 
il adjunct to Mr. Sully's work, and may 
ave ■ some readers trouble by resolv- 
to look no farther into the " Philo— 
the Unconscious." Over and above 


this, I have been so often told that the views 
concerning unconscious action contained in the 
foregoing lecture and in ** Life and Habit " are 
only the very fallacy of Von Hartmann over 
again, that I should like to give the public an 
opportunity of seeing whether this is so or no, 
by placing the two contending theories of un- 
conscious action side by side. I hope that it 
will thus be seen that neither Professor Hering 
nor I have fallen into the fallacy of Von Hart- 
mann, but that rather Von Hartmann has fallen 
into his fallacy through failure to grasp the 
principle which Professor Hering has insisted 
upon, and to connect heredity with memory. 

Professor Hering's philosophy of the uncon- 
scious is of extreme simplicity. He rests upon 
a fact of daily and hourly experience, namely, 
that practice makes things easy that were once 
difficult, and often results in their being done 
without any consciousness of effort. But if the 
repetition of an act tends ultimately, under 
certain circumstances, to its being done uncon- 
sciously, so also is the fact of an intricate and 
difficult action being done unconsciously an 
argument that it must have been done re- 
peatedly already. As I said in " Life and 
Habit," it is more easy to suppose that oc- 
casions on which such an action has been per- 


formed have not been wanting, even though 
we do not see when and where they were, 
than that the facility which we observe should 
have been attained without practice and memory 

(P- 56). 
There can be nothing better established or 

more easy, whether to understand or verify, than 
the unconsciousness with which habitual actions 
come to be performed. If, however, it is once 
conceded that it is the manner of habitual action 
generally, then all d />rtort objection to Professor 
Hering's philosophy of the unconscious is at 
an end. The question becomes one of fact in 
individual cases, and of degree. 

How far, then, does the principle of the con- 
vertibility, as it were, of practice and uncon- 
sciousness extend ? Can any line be drawn 
beyond which it shall cease to operate ? If not, 
may it not have operated and be operating to 
a vast and hitherto unsuspected extent ? This 
is all, and certainly it is sufficiently simple. I 
sometimes think it has found its greatest stum- 
bling-block in its total want of mystery, as though 
we must be like those conjurors whose stock in 
trade is a small deal table and a kitchen-chair 
with bare legs, and who, with their parade of 
" no deception *' and " examine everything for 
yourselves," deceive worse than others who 


make use of all manner of elaborate parapher- 
nalia* It is true we require no paraphernalia, 
and we produce unexpected results, but we are 
not conjuring. 

To turn now to Von Hartmann. When I read 
Mr. Sully's article in the Westminster Review, I 
did not know whether the sense of mystification 
which it produced in me was wholly due to Von 
Hartmann or no ; but on making acquaintance 
with Von Hartmann himself, I found that Mr. 
Sully has erred, if at all, iq making him more in- 
telligible than he actually is. Von Hartmann has 
not got a meaning. Give him Professor Her- 
ing's key and he might get one, but it would 
be at the expense of seeing what approach he 
had made to a system fallen to pieces. Granted 
that in his details and subordinate passages he 
often both has and conveys a meaning, there is, 
nevertheless, no coherence between these de- 
tails, and the nearest approach to a broad con- 
ception covering the work which the reader can 
carry away with him is at once so incompre- 
hensible and repulsive, that it is difficult to 
write about it without saying more perhaps 
than those who have not seen the original will 
accept as likely to be true. The idea to which 
I refer is that of an unconscious clairvoyance, 
which, from the language continually used con- 


cerning it, must be of the nature of a person, and 
which is supposed to take possession of living 
beings so fully as to be the very essence of 
their nature, the promoter of their embryonic 
development, and the instigator of their instinc- 
tive actions. This approaches closely to the 
personal God of Mosaic and Christian theology, 
with the exception that the word "clairvoy- 
ance ^ " is substituted for God, and that the God 
is supposed to be unconscious. 
Mr. Sully says : — ; 

** When we grasp it [the philosophy of Von Hartmann] 
as a whole, it amounts to nothing more than this, that all 
or nearly all the phenomena of the material and spiritual 
world rest upon and result from a mysterious, unconscious 
being, though to call it being is really to add on an idea not 
immediately contained within the all-sufficient principle. 
But what difference is there between this and saying that 
the phenomena of the world at large come we know not 
whence ? . . , . The unconscious, therefore, tends to be a 
simple phrase and nothing more. .... No doubt there are 
a number of mental processes .... of which we are un- 
conscious, .... but to infer from this that they are due to 
an unconscious power, and to proceed to demonstrate them 
in the presence of the unconscious through all nature, is to 
make an unwarrantable salttis in reasoning. What, in fact, 
is this * unconscious ' but a high-sounding name to veil our 
ignorance ? Is the unconscious any better explanation of 
phenomena we do not understand than the * devil-devil,' by 

1 I am obliged to Mr. Sully for this excellent translation of ** Hell- 
sehen. " 


which Australian tribes explain the Leyden jar and its 
phenomena ? Does it increase our knowledge to know that 
we do not know the origin of language or the cause of in- 
stinct ? . . . . Alike in organic creation and the evolution of 
history * performances and actions ' — ^the words are those of 
Strauss — are ascribed to an unconscious, which can only 
belong to a conscious being.^ 

• >• • • • • • 


" The difficulties of the system advance as we proceed. ^ 
Subtract this questionable factor — ^the unconscious — from 
Hartmann's 'Biology and Psychology/ and the chapters 
remain pleasant and instructive reading. But with the third 
part of his work — the Metaphysic of the Unconscious — our 
feet are clogged at every step. We are encircled by the 
merest play of words, the most unsatisfactory demonstra- 
tions, and most inconsistent inferences. The theory of 
final causes has been hitherto employed to show the 
wisdom of the world; with our Pessimist philosopher it 
shows nothing but its irrationality and misery. Conscious- 
ness has been generally supposed to be the condition of all 
happiness and interest in life ; here it simply awakens us to 
misery, and the lower an animal lies in the scale of con- 
scious life, the better and the pleasj^nter its lot. 

• • • • • • • 

" Thus, then, the universe, as an emanation of the uncon- 
scious, has been constructed* Throughout it has been 
marked by design, by purpose, by finality; throughout a 
wonderful adaptation of means to ends, a wonderful adjust- 
ment and relativity in different portions has been noticed — 
and all this for what conclusion ? Not, as in the hands of 
the natural theologians of the eighteenth century, to show 
that the world is the result of design, of an intelligent, bene- 
ficent Creator, but the manifestation of a Being whose only 

^ Westminster Review^ New Series, vol. xlix. p. 143. 
* Ibid., p. 145. * Ibid., p. 151. 



predicates are negatives, whose very essence is to be uncon- 
scious. It is not only like ancient Athens, to an unknown, 
but to an unknowing God, that modem Pessimism rears its 
altar. Yet surely the fact that the motive principle of exist- 
ence moves in a mysterious way outside our consciousness 
no way requires that the All-one Being should be himself 

I believe the foregoing to convey as correct 
an idea of Von Hartmann's system as it is pos- 
sible to convey, and will leave it to the reader 
to say how much in common there is between 
this and the lecture given in the preceding 
chapter, beyond the fact that both touch upon 
unconscious actions. The extract which will 
form my next chapter is only about a thirtieth 
part of the entire " Philosophy of the Uncon- 
scious," but it will, I believe, suffice to substan- 
tiate the justice of what Mr. Sully has said in 
the passages above quoted. 

As regards the accuracy of the translatiort, I 
have submitted all passages about which I was 
in the least doubtful to the same gentleman who 
revised my translation of Professor Hering's 
lecture ; I have also given the German wherever 
I thought the reader might be glad to see it. 

( 141 ) 



Von Hartmann's chapter on instinct is as 
follows : — 

Instinct is action taken in pursuance of a 
purpose, but without conscious perception of 
what the purpose is.^ 

A purposive action, with consciousness of 
the purpose, and where the course taken is 
the result of deliberation, is not said to be 
instinctive ; nor yet, again, is blind, aimless 
action, such as outbreaks of fury on the part of 
offended or otherwise enraged animals. I see 
no occasion for disturbing the commonly re- 
ceived definition of instinct as given above ; for 
those who think they can refer all the so-called 
ordinary instincts of animals to conscious de- 
liberation ipso facto deny that there is such 
a thing as instinct at all, and should strike the 

^ ''Instinct ist zweckmassiges Handeln ohne Bewusstsein des 
Zwecks." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., JBerlin, 187 1, p. 70. 


word out of their vocabulary. But of this more 

Assuming, then, the existence of instinctive 
action as above defined, it can be explained 
as — 

I. A mere necessary consequence of bodily 
organisation. ^ 

II. A mechanism of brain or mind contrived 
by nature. 

III. The outcome of an unconscious activity 
of mind. 

In neither of the two first cases is there any 
scope for the idea of purpose; in the third, 
purpose must be present immediately before 
the action. In the two first cases, action is 
supposed to be brought about by means of an 
initial arrangement, either of bodily or mental 
mechanism, purpose being conceived of as 
existing on a single occasion only — that is to 
say, in the determination of the initial arrange- 
ment. In the third, purpose is conceived as 
present in every individual instance. Let us 
proceed to the consideration of these three 

* " 1. Eine blosse Folge der korperlichen Organisation. 

*' 2, Ein von der Natur eingerichteter Gehim- oder Geistesmecha- 

"3. Eine Folge unbewusster Geistesthatigkeit." — Philosopky of 
the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 70. 


Instinct is not a mere consequence of bodily 
organisation; for — 

(^.) Bodies may be alike, yet they may be 
endowed with different instincts. 

All spiders have the same spinning apparatus, 
but one kind weaves radiating webs, another 
irregular ones, while a third makes none at all, 
but lives in holes, whose walls it overspins, and 
whose entrance it closes with a door. Almost 
all birds have a like organisation for the con- 
struction of their nests (a beak and feet), but 
how infinitely do their nests vary in appearance, 
mode of construction, attachment to surround- 
ing objects (they stand, are glued on, hang, 
&c.), selection of site (caves, holes, corners, 
forks of trees, shrubs, the ground), and excel- 
lence of workmanship ; how often, too, are they 
not varied in the species of a single genus, as 
oi parus. Many birds, moreover, build no nest 
at all. The differences in the songs of birds 
are in like manner independent of the special 
construction of their voice apparatus, nor do 
the modes of nest construction that obtain 
among ants and bees depend upon their 
bodily organisation. Organisation, as a general 
rule, only renders the bird capable of singing, 
as giving it an apparatus with which to sing at 
all, but it has nothing to do with the specific 


character of the execution. . . . The nursing, 
defence, and education of offspring cannot be 
considered as in any way more dependent upon 
bodily organisation ; nor yet the sites which in- 
sects choose for the laying of their eggs ; nor, 
again, the selection of deposits of spawn, of their 
own species, by male fish for impregnation. The 
rabbit burrows, the hare does not, though both 
have the same burrowing apparatus. The hare, 
however, has less need of a subterranean place 
of refuge by reason of its greater swiftness. 
Some birds, with excellent powers of flight, are 
nevertheless stationary in their habits, as the 
secretary falcon and certain other birds of 
prey ; while even such moderate fliers as quails 
are sometimes known to make very distant 

(6.) Like instincts may be found associated 
with unlike organs. 

Birds with and without feet adapted for 
climbing live in trees ; so also do monkeys 
with and without flexible tails, squirrels, sloths, 
pumas, &c. Mole-crickets dig with a well- 
pronounced spade upon their fore- feet, while the 
burying-beetle does the same thing though it 
has no special apparatus whatever. The mole 
conveys its winter provender in pockets, an 
inch long and half an inch wide, within its 


cheeks ; the field-mouse does so without the 
help of any such contrivance. The migratory 
instinct displays itself with equal strength in 
animals of widely different form, by whatever 
means they may pursue their journey, whether 
by water, land, or air. 

It is clear, therefore, that instinct is in great 
measure independent of bodily organisation. 
Granted, indeed, that a certain amount of bodily 
apparatus is a sifte gtid non for any power of 
execution at all — as, for example, that there 
would be no ingenious nest without organs 
more or less adapted for its construction, no 
spinning of a web without spinning glands — 
nevertheless, it is impossible to maintain that 
instinct is a consequence of organisation. The 
mere existence of the organ does not constitute 
even the smallest incentive to any correspond- 
ing habitual activity. A sensation of pleasure 
must at least accompany the use of the organ 
before its existence can incite to its employ- 
ment. And even so when a sensation of 
pleasure has given the impulse which is to 
render it active, it is only the fact of there 
being activity at all, and not the special 
characteristics of the activity, that can be due 
to organisation. The reason for the special 
mode of the activity is the very problem that 



we have to solve. No one will call the action 
of the spider instinctive in voiding the fluid 
from her spinning gland when it is too full, and 
therefore painful to her ; nor that of the male 
fish when it does what amounts to much the 
same thing as this. The instinct and the 
marvel lie in the fact that the spider spins 
threads, and proceeds to weave her web with 
them, and that the male fish will only impreg- 
nate ova of his own species. 

Another proof that the pleasure felt in the 
employment of an organ is wholly inadequate 
to account for this employment is to be found 

in the fact that the moral greatness of instinct, 


the point in respect of which it most commands 
our admiration, consists in the obedience paid 
to its behests, to the postponement of all per- 
sonal well-being, and at the cost, it may be, of 
life itself. If the mere pleasure of relieving 
certain glands from overfulness were the reason 
why caterpillars generally spin webs, they would 
go on spinning until they had relieved these 
glands, but they would not repair their work 
as often as any one destroyed it, and do this 
again and again until they die of exhaustion. 
The same holds good with the other instincts 
that at first sight appear to be inspired only by 
a sensation of pleasure ; for if we change the 


circumstances, so as to put self-sacrifice in the 
place of self-interest, it becomes at once apparent 
that they have a higher source than this. We 


think, for example, that birds pair for the sake 
of mere sexual gratification ; why, then, do they 
leave off pairing as soon as they have laid the 
requisite number, of eggs ? That there is a 
reproductive instinct over and above the desire 
for sexual gratification appears from the fact 
that if a man takes an ^^g out of the nest, the 
birds will come together again and the hen will 
lay another ^%%\ or, if they belong to some of 
the more wary species, they will desert their 
nest, and make preparation for an entirely new 
brood.- A female wryneck, whose nest was 
daily robbed of the ^^g she laid in it, continued 
to lay a new one, which grew smaller and 
smaller, till, when she had laid her twenty-ninth 
^gg> she was found dead upon her nest. If an 
instinct cannot stand the test of self-sacrifice — 
if it is the simple outcome of a desire for bodily 
gratification — then it is no true instinct, and is 
only so called erroneously. 

Instinct is not a mechanism of brain or mind 
implanted in living beings by nature ; for, if it 
were, then instinctive action without any, even 
unconscious, activity of mind, and with no con- 
ception concerning the purpose of the action, 


would be executed mechanically, the purpose 
having been once for all thought out by Nature 
or Providence, which has so organised the in- 
dividual that it acts henceforth as a purely 
mechanical medium. We are now dealing 
with a psychical organisation as the cause of 
instinct, as we were above dealing with a 
physical. A psychical organisation would be 
a conceivable explanation, and we need look 
no farther if every instinct once belonging to 
an animal discharged its functions in an un- 
varying manner. But this is never found to 
be the case, for all instincts vary when there 
arises a sufficient motive for varying them. 
This proves that special exterior circumstances 
enter into the matter, and that these circum- 
stances are the very things that render the 
attainment of the purpose possible through 
means selected by the instinct. Here first do 
we find instinct acting as though it were actually 
design with action following at its heels, for, 
until the arrival of the motive, the instinct 
remains latent and discharges no function 
whatever. The motive enters by way of an 
idea received into the mind through the in- 
strumentality of the senses, and there is a con- 
stant connection between instinct in action and 
all sensual images which give information that 


an opportunity has arisen for attaining the ends 
proposed to itself by the instinct. 

The psychical mechanism of this constant 
connection must also be looked for. It may 
help us here to turn to the piano for an illus- 
tration. The struck keys are the motives, the 
notes that sound in consequence are the instincts 
in action. This illustration might perhaps be 
allowed to pass (if we also suppose that entirely 
different keys can give out the same sound) if 
instincts could only be compared with distinctly 
tuned notes, so that one and the same instinct 
acted always in the same manner on the arising 
of the motive which should set it in action. 
This, however, is not so; for it is the blind 
unconscious purpose of the instinct that is 
alone constant, the instinct itself — that is to 
say, the will to make use of certain means 
— varying as the means that can be most 
suitably employed vary under varying circum- 

In this we condemn the theory which refuses 
to recognise unconscious purpose as present in 
each individual case of instinctive action. For 
he who maintains instinct to be the result of 
a mechanism of mind, must suppose a special 
and constant mechanism for each variation and 
modification of the instinct in accordance with 


exterior circumstances,^ that is to say, a new 
string giving a note with a new tone must be 
inserted, and this would involve the mechanism 
in endless complication. But the fact that the 
purpose is constant notwithstanding all manner 
of variation in the means chosen by the instinct, 
proves thlt there is no necessity for the sup- 
position of such an elaborate mental mechanism 
— the presence of an unconscious purpose being 
sufficient to explain the facts. The purpose of 
the bird, for example, that has laid her eggs is 
constant, and consists in the desire to bring her 
young to maturity. When the temperature of 
the air is insufficient to effect this, she sits upon 
her eggs, and only intermits her sittings in the 
warmest countries ; the mammal, on the other 
hand, attains the fulfilment of its instinctive 
purpose without any co-operation on its own 
part. In warm climates many birds only sit 
by night, and small exotic birds that have built 
in aviaries kept at a high temperature sit little 
upon their eggs or not at all. How inconceiv- 
able is the supposition of a mechanism that 
impels the bird to sit as soon as the temperature 

* "Hiermit ist der Annahme das Urtheil gesprochen, welche die 
unbewusste Vorstellung des Zwecks in jedem einzelnen Falle vorwiegt ; 
denn wollte man nun noch die Vorstellung des Geistes-mechanismus 
festhalten, so miisste fur jede Variation und Modification des Instincts, 
nach den ausseren Umstanden, eine besondere constante Vorrichtung 
. . . eingefugt sein." — Philosophy oj[the Unconscious y 3d ed., p. 74. 


falls below a certain height! How clear and 
simple, on the other hand, is the view that there 
is an unconscious purpose constraining the 
volition of the bird to the use of the -fitting 
means, of which process, however, only the 
last link, that is to say, the will immediately 
preceding the action falls within the' conscious- 
ness of the bird ! 

In South Africa the sparrow surrounds her 
nest with thorns as a defence against apes and 
serpents. The eggs of the cuckoo, as regards 
size, colour, and marking, invariably resemble 
those of the birds in whose nests she lays. 
Sylvia rufa^ for example, lays a white ^%% with 
violet spots ; Sylvia hippolais, a red one with 
black spots ; Regulus ignicapellus^ a cloudy red; 
but the cuckoo's ^gg is in each case so deceptive 
an imitation of its model, that it can hardly be 
distinguished except by the structure of its shell. 

Huber contrived that his bees should be 
unable to build in their usual instinctive manner, 
beginning from above and working down- 
wards ; on this they began building from below, 
and again horizontally. The outermost cells 
that spring from the top of the hive or abut 
against its sides are not hexagonal, but penta- 
gonal, so as to gain in strength, being attached 
with one base instead of two sides. In autumn 


bees lengthen their existing honey cells if these 
are insufficient, but in the ensuing spring they 
again shorten them in order to get greater 
roadway between the combs. When the full 
combs have become too heavy, they strengthen 
the walls of the uppermost or bearing cells by 
thickening them with wax and propolis. If 
larvae of working bees are introduced into the 
cells set apart for drones, the working bees will 
cover these cells with the flat lids usual for this 
kind of larva, and not with the round ones that 
are proper for drones. In autumn, as a general 
rule, bees kill their drones, but they refrain 
from doing this when they have lost their 
queen, and keep them to fertilise the young 
queen, who will be developed from larvae that 
would otherwise have become working bees. 
Huber observed that they defend the entrance 
of their hive against the inroads of the sphinx 
moth by means of skilful constructions made of 
wax and propolis. They only introduce pro- 
polis when they want it for the execution of 
repairs, or for some other special purpose. 
Spiders and caterpillars also display marvellous 
dexterity in the repair of their webs if they have 
been damaged, and this requires powers per- 
fectly distinct from those requisite for the con- 
struction of a new one. 


The above examples might be multiplied 
indefinitely, but they are sufficient to establish 
the fact that instincts are not capacities rolled, 
as it were, off a reel mechanically, according to 
an invariable system, but that they adapt them- 
selves most closely to the circumstances of each 
case, and are capable of such great modification 
and variation that at times they almost appear 
to cease to be instinctive. 

Many will, indeed, ascribe these modifications 
to conscious deliberation on the part of the 
animals themselves, and it is impossible to 
deny that in the case of the more intellectually 
gifted animals there may be such a thing as . 
a. combination of instinctive faculty and con- 
scious reflection. I think, however, the ex- 
amples already cited are enough to show that 
often where the normal and the abnormal 
action springs fronv the same source, without 
any complication with conscious deliberation, 
they are either both instinctive or both deli- 
berative.^ Or is that which prompts the bee to 
build hexagonal prisms in, the middle of her 
comb something of an actually distinct cha- 

1 ** Indessen glaube ich, dass die angefuhrten Beispiele zur Geniige 
beweisen, dass es auch viele Falle giebt, wo ohne jede Complication 
mit der bewussten Ueberlcgung die gewohnliche und aussergewohn- 
liche Handlung aus derselben Quelle stammen, dass sie entweder 
beide wirklicher Instinct, oder beide Resultate bewusster Ueberlegung 
sind.'* — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 76. 


racter from that which impels her to build 
pentagonal ones at the sides ? Are there two 
separate kinds of thing, one of which induces 
birds under certain circumstances to sit upon 
their eggs, while another leads them under 
certain other circumstances to refrain from 
doing so ? And does this hold good also with 
bees when they at one time kill their brethren 
without mercy and at another grant them their 
lives ? Or with birds when they construct the 
kind of nest peculiar to their race, and, again, 
any special provision which they may think fit 
under certain circumstances to take ? If it is 
once granted that the normal and the abnormal 
manifestations of instinct — and they are often 
incapable of being distinguished — ^spring from a 
single source, then the objection that the modi- 
fication is due to conscious knowledge will be 
found to be a suicidal one later on, so far as it 
is directed against instinct generally. It may 
be sufficient here to point out, in anticipation of 
remarks that will be found in later chapters, 
that instinct and the power of organic develop- 
ment involve the same essential principle, 
though operating under different circumstances 
— the two melting into one another without 
any definite boundary between them. Here, 
then, we have conclusive proof that instinct 


does not depend upon organisation of body or 
brain, but that, more truly, the organisation is 
due to the nature and manner of the instinct. 

On the other hand, we must now return to 
a closer consideration of the conception of a 
psychical mechanism.^ And here we find that 
this mechanism, in spite of its explaining so 
much, is itself so obscure that we can hardly 
form any idea concerning it. The motive 
enters the mind by way of a conscious sensual 
impression ; this is the first link of the process ; 
the last link * appears as the conscious motive 
of an action. Both, however, are entirely un- 
like, and neither has anything to do with 
ordinary motivation, which consists exclusively 
in the desire that springs from a conception 
either of pleasure or dislike — the former 
prompting to the attainment of any object, the 
latter to its avoidance. In the case of instinct, 
pleasure is for the most parj a concomitant phe- 
nomenon ; but it is not so always, as we have 

^ " Dagegen haben wir nunmehr unseren Blick noch einmal scharfer 
auf den Begriff eines psychischen Mechanismus zu richten, und da 
zeigt sich, dass derselbe, abgesehen da von, wie viel er erklart, so 
dunkel ist, dass man sich kaum etwas dabei denken kann.** — 
Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 76. 

' " Das Endglied tritt als bewusster Wille zu irgend einer Handlung 
auf ; beide sind aber ganz ungleichartig und haben mit der gewohn- 
lichen Motivation nichts zu thun, welche ausschliesslich darin besteht, 
dass die Vorstellung einer Lust oder einer Unlust das Begehren 
erzeugt, erstere zu erlangen, letztere sich fern zu halten." — Ibid.^ p. 76, 


already seen, inasmuch as the consummation 
and highest moral development of instinct dis- 
plays itself in self-sacrifice. 

The true problem, however, lies far deeper 
than this. For every conception of a pleasure 
proves that we have experienced this pleasure 
already. But it follows from this, that when 
the pleasure was first felt there must have 
been will present, in the gratification of which 
will the pleasure consisted ; the question, there- 
fore, arises, whence did the will come before 
the pleasure that would follow on its grati- 
fication was known, and before bodily pain, as, 
for example, of hunger, rendered relief impera- 
tive ? Yet we may see that even though *an 
animal has grown up apart from any others 
of its kind, it will yet none the less manifest 
the instinctive impulses of its race, though 
experience can have taught it nothing whatever 
concerning the pleasure that will ensue upon 
their gratification. As regards instinct, there- 
fore, there must be a causal connection between 
the motivating sensual conception and the will 
to perform the instinctive action, and the plea- 
sure of the subsequent gratification has nothing 
to do with the matter. We know by the 
experience of our own instincts that this causal 
connection does not lie within our conscious- 


ness ; ^ therefore, if it is to be a mechanism of 
any kind, it can only be either an unconscious 
mechanical induction and metamorphosis of the 
vibrations of the conceived motive into the 
vibrations of the conscious action in the brain, 
or an unconscious spiritual mechanism. 

In the first case, it is surely strange that this 
process should go on unconsciously, though it is 
so powerful in its effects that the will resulting 
from it overpowers every other consideration, 
every other kind of will, and that vibrations of 
this kind, when set up in the brain, become 
always ccfnsciously perceived; nor is it easy 
to conceive in what way this metamorphosis 
can take place so that the constant purpose 
can be attained under varying circumstances 
by the resulting will in modes that vary with 
variation of the special features of each indi- 
vidual case. 

But if we take the other alternative, and 
suppose an unconscious mental mechanism, we 
cannot legitimately conceive of the process 
going on in this as other than what prevails in 

1 'Tfiese causale Verbindung fallt erfahrungsmassig, wie wir von 
unsem menschlichen Instincten wissen, nicht in's Bewusstsein; folglich 
kann dieselbe, wenn sie ein Mechanismus sein soil, nur entweder ein 
nicht in's Bewusstsein fallende mechanische Leitung und Umwandlung 
der Schwingungen des vorgestelhen Motivs in die Schwingungen der 
gewoUten Handlung im Gehirn, oder ein unbewusster geistiger Me- 
chanismus sein." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 77. 


all mental mechanism, namely, than as by way 
of idea and will. We are, therefore, compelled 
to imagine a causal connection between the 
consciously recognised motive and the will to 
do the instinctive action, through unconscious 
idea and will ; nor do I know how this connec- 
tion can be conceived as being brought about 
more simply than through a conceived and 
willed purpose.^ Arrived at this point, how- 
ever, we have attained the logical mechanism 
peculiar to and inseparable from all mind, and 
find unconscious purpose to be an indispensable 
link in every instinctive action. With this, there- 
fore, the conception of a mental mechanism, 
dead, and predestined from without, has dis- 
appeared, and has become transformed into the 
spiritual life inseparable from logic, so that we 
have reached the sole remaining requirement 

1 "Man hat sich also zwischen dem bewussten Motiv, und dem 
Willen zur Instincthandlung eine causale Verbindung durch unbe- 
i?vusstes Vorstellen und Wollen zu denken, und ich weiss nicht, wie 
diese Verbindung einfacher gedacht werden konnte, als durch den 
vorgestellten und gewollten Zweck. Damit sind wir aber bei dem 
alien Geistem eigenthiimlichen und immanenten Mechanismus der 
Logik angelangt, und haben die unbewusster Zweckvorstellung bei 
jeder einzelnen Instincthandlung als unentbehrliches Glied gefunden ; 
hiennit hat also der Begriff des todten, ausserlich pradestinirten Geistes- 
mechanismus sich selbst aufgehoben und in das immanente Geistes- 
leben der Logik umgewandelt, und wir sind bei der letzten Moglich- 
keit angekommen, welche fur die AufTassung eines wirklichen Instincts 
Ubrig bleibt : der Instinct ist bewusstes Wollen des Mittels zu einem 
unbewusst gewollten Zweck." — Philosophy of the UnconscumSf 3d ed., 
p. 78. 


for the conception of an actual instinct, which 
proves to be a conscious willing of the means 
towards an unconsciously willed purpose. This 
conception explains clearly and without violence 
all the problems which instinct presents to us ; 
or more truly, all that was problematical about 
instinct disappears when its true nature has 
been thus declared. If this work were confined 
to the consideration of instinct alone, the con- 
ception of an unconscious activity of mind might 
excite opposition, inasmuch as it is one with 
which our educated public is not yet familiar ; 
but in a work like the present, every chapter 
of which adduces fresh facts in support of the 
existence of such an activity and of its remark- 
able consequences, the novelty of the theory 
should be taken no farther into consideration. 

Though I so confidently deny that instinct 
is the simple action of a mechanism which has 
been contrived once for all, I by no means 
exclude the supposition that in the constitution 
of the brain, the ganglia, and the whole body, 
in respect of morphological as well as molecu- 
lar-physiological condition, certain predisposi- 
tions can be established which direct the un- 
conscious intermediaries more readily into one 
channel than into another. This predisposition 
is either the result of a habit which keeps con- 


tinually cutting for itself a deeper and deeper 
channel, until in the end it leaves indelible traces 
whether in the individual or in the race, or it 
is expressly called into being by the unconscious 
formative principle in generation, so as to facili- 
tate action in a given direction. This last will 
be the case more frequently in respect of exterior 
organisation — as, for example, with the weapons 
or working organs of animals — while to the 
former must be referred the molecular condition 
of brain and ganglia which bring about the per- 
petually recurring elements of an instinct such 
as the hexagonal shape of the cells of bees. 
We shall presently see that by individual 
character we mean the sum of the individual 
methods of reaction against all possible motives, 
and that this character depends essentially upon 
a constitution of mind and body acquired in 
some measure through habit by the individual, 
but for the most part inherited. But an instinct 
is also a mode of reaction against certain motives ; 
here too, then, we are dealing with character, 
though perhaps not so much with that of the 
individual as of the race ; for by character in 
regard to instinct we do not intend the differ- 
ences that distinguish individuals, but races from 
one another. If any one chooses to maintain 
that such a predisposition for certain kinds of 


activity on the part of brain and body consti- 
tutes a mechanism, this may in one sense be 
admitted ; but as against this view it must be 
remarked — 

1. That such deviations from the normal 
scheme of an instinct as cannot be referred to 
conscious deliberation are not provided for by 
any predisposition in this mechanism. 

2. That heredity is only possible under the 
circumstances of a constant superintendence of 
the embryonic development by a purposive un- 
conscious activity of growth. It must be ad- 
mitted, however, that this is influenced in return 
by the predisposition existing in the germ. 

3. That the impressing of the predisposi- 
tion upon the individual from whom it is 
inherited can only be effected by long practice, 
consequently the instinct without auxiliary 
mechanism^ is the .originating cause of the 
auxiliary mechanism. 

4. That none of those instinctive actions that 
are performed rarely, or perhaps once only, in 
the lifetime of any individual — as, for example, 
those connected with the propagation and 
metamorphoses of the lower forms of life, and 

^ " Also der Instinct ohne Hiilfsmechanismus die Ursache der Ent- 
stehung des Hiilfsmechanismus \s,V^ ^Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d 
ed., p. 79. 


none of those instinctive omissions of action, 
neglect of which necessarily entails death — can 
be conceived as having become engrained into 
the character through habit; the ganglionic 
constitution, therefore, that predisposes the 
animal towards them must have been fashioned 

5. That even the presence of an auxiliary 
mechanism^ does not compel the unconscious 
to a particular corresponding mode of instinctive 
action, but only predisposes it This is shown 
by the possibility of departure from the normal 
type of action, so that the unconscious purpose 
is always stronger than the ganglionic consti- 
tution, and takes any opportunity of choosing 
from several similar possible courses the one 
that is handiest and most convenient to the 
constitution of the individual. 

We now approach the question that I have 
reserved for our final one, — Is there, namely, 
actually such a thing as instinct,^ or are all 
so-called instinctive actions only the results of 
conscious deliberation ? 

In support of the second of these two views, 

^ **Dass auch der fertige Hulfsmechanismus das Unbewusste nicht 
etwa zu dieser bestimmten Instincthandlung necessirt, sondern blos$e 
pradisponirt." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 79. 

' '*Gtebt es einen wirklichen Instinct, oder sind die sogenannten 
Instincthandlungen nur Resiiltate bewusster Ueberlegiing ? " — Fhilo* 
sophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 79, 


it may be alleged that the more limited is the 
range of the conscious mental activity of any 
living being, the more fully developed in pro- 
pbrtion to its entire mental power is its per- 
formance commonly found to be in respect of 
its own limited and special instinctivp depart- 
ment This holds as good with the lower 
animals as with men, and is explained by the 
fact that perfection of proficiency is only partly 
dependent upon natural capacity, but is in 
great measure due to practice and cultivation 
of the original faculty. A philologist, for 
example, is unskilled in questions of juris- 
prudence; a natural philosopher or mathema- 
tician, in. philology ; an abstract philosopher, in 
poetical criticism. Nor has this anything to 
do with the natural talents of the several 
persons, but follows as a consequence of th€ir 
special training. The more special, therefore, 
is the ♦ direction in which the mental activity 
of any living being is exercised, the more will 
the whole developing and practising power of 
the mind be brought to bear upon this one 
branch, so that it is not surprising if the special 
power comes ultimately to becir an increased 
proportion to the total power of the individual, 
through the contraction of the range within 
which it is exercised. 


Those, however, who apply this to the eluci- 
dation of instinct should not forget the words, 
" in proportion to the entire mental power of 
the animal in question," and should bear ill 
mind that the entire mental power becomes 
less and l^ss continually as we descend the scale 
of animal life, whereas proficiency in the per- 
formance of an instinctive action seems to be 
much of a muchness in all grades of the animal 
world. As, therefore, those performances which 
indisputably proceed from conscious deliberation 
decrease proportionately with decrease of mental 
power, while nothing of the kind is observable in 
the case of instinct — it follows that instinct must 
involve some other principle than that of con- 
scious intelligence. We see, moreover, that 
actions which have their source in conscious 
intelligence are of one and the same kind, 
whether among the lower animals or with man- 
kind — that is to say, that they are acquired by 
apprenticeship or instruction and perfected by 
practice ; so that the saying, " Age brings 
wisdom," holds good with the brutes as much 
as with ourselves. Instinctive actions, on the 
contrary, have a special and distinct character, 
in that they are performed with no less profi- 
ciency by animals that have been reared in 
solitude than by those that have been instructed 



by their parents, the first essays of a hitherto 
unpractised animal being as successful as its 
later ones. There is a difference in principle 
here which cannot be mistaken. Again, we 
know by experience that the feebler and more 
limited an intelligence is, the more slowly do 
ideas act upon it, that is to say, the slower and 
more laborious is its conscious thought. So 
long as instinct does not come into play, this 
holds good both in the case of men of different 
powers of comprehension and with animals ; 
but with instinct all is changed, for it is the 
specialty of instinct never to hesitate or loiter, 
but to take action instantly upon perceiving 
that the stimulating motive has made its appear- 
ance. This rapidity in arriving at a resolution 
is common to the instinctive actions both of the 
highest and the lowest animals, and indicates 
an essential difference between instinct and con- 
scious deliberation. 

Finally, as regards perception of the power 
of execution, a glance will suffice to show the 
disproportion that exists between this and the 
grade of intellectual activity on which an ani- 
mal may be standing. Take, for instance, the 
caterpillar of the emperor moth {Saturnia pa- 
vonia minor). It eats the leaves of the bush 
upon which it was born ; at the utmost has just 


enough sense to get on to the lower sides of 
the leaves if it begins to rain, and from time to 
time changes its skin. This is its whole exist- 
ence, which certainly does not lead us to ex- 
pect a display of any, even, the most limited, 
intellectual power. When, however, the time 
comes for the larva of this moth to become a 
chrysalis, it spins for itself a double cocoon, 
fortified with bristles that point outwards, so 
that it can be opened easily from within, though 
it is sufficiently impenetrable from without. If 
this contrivance were the result of conscious 
reflection, we should have to suppose some 
such reasoning process as the following to take 
place in the mind of the caterpillar : — " I am 
about to become a chrysalis, and, motionless as 
I must be, shall be exposed to many different 
kinds of attack. I must therefore weave my- 
self a web. But when I am a moth I shall not 
be able, as some moths are, to find my way out 
of it by chemical or mechanical means ; there- 
fore I must leave a way open for myself. In 
order, however, that my enemies may not take 
advantage of this, I will close it with elastic 
bristles, which I can easily push asunder from 
within, but which, • upon the principle of the 
arch, will resist all pressure from without." 
Surely this is asking rather too much from a 


poor caterpillar ; yet the whole of the foregoing 
must be thought out if a correct result is to be 
arrived at 

This theoretical separation of instinct from 
conscious intelligence can be easily misrepre- 
sented by opponents of my theory, as though a 
separation in practice also would be necessi- 
tated in consequence. This is by no means 
my intention. On the contrary, I have already 
insisted at some length that both the two kinds 
of mental activity may co-exist in all manner 
of different proportions, so that there may be 
every degree of combination, from pure in- 
stinct to pure deliberation. We shall see, how- 
ever, in a later chapter, that even in the highest 
and most abstract activity of human conscious- 
ness there are forces at work that are of the 
highest importance, and are essentially of the 
same kind as instinct. 

On the other hand, the most marvellous dis- 
plays of instinct are to be found not only in 
plants, but also in those lowest organisms of 
the simplest bodily form which are partly 
unicellular, and in respect of conscious intelli- 
gence stand far below the higher plants — to 
which, indeed, any kind of deliberative faculty 
is commonly denied. Even in the case of those 
minute microscopic organisms that baffle our 


attempts to classify them either as animals 
or vegetables, we are still compelled to admire 
an instinctive, purposive behaviour, which goes 
far beyond a mere reflex response to a stimulus 
from without ; all doubt, therefore, concerning 
the actual existence of an instinct must be at 
an end, and the attempt to deduce it as a con- 
sequence of conscious deliberation be given up 
as hopeless. I will here adduce an instance as 
extraordinary as any we yet know of, showing, 
as it does, that many different purposes, which 
in the case of the higher animals • require a 
complicated system of organs of motion, can be 
attained with incredibly simple means. 

Arcella vulgaris is a minute morsel of pro- 
toplasm, which lives in a concave - convex, 
brown, finely reticulated shell, through a cir- 
cular opening in the concave side of which it 
can project itself by throwing out pseudopodia. 
If we look through the microscope at a drop 
of water containing living arcellce^ we may 
happen to see one of them lying on its back at 
the bottom of the drop, and making fruitless 
efforts for two or three minutes to lay hold of 
some fixed point by means of at pseudopodium. 
After this there will appear suddenly from 
two to five, but sometimes more, dark points 
in the protoplasm at a small distance from the 


circumference, and, as a rule, at regular dis- 
tances from one another. These rapidly deve- 
lop themselves into well-defined spherical air 
vesicles, and come presently to fill a consider- 
able part of the hollow of the shell, thereby 
driving part of the protoplasm outside it. 
After from five to twenty minutes, the specific 
gravity of the arcella is so much lessened that 
it is lifted by the water with its pseudopodia^ 
and brought up against the upper surface of 
the water-drop, on which it is able to travel. 
In from five to ten minutes the vesicles will 
now disappear, the last small point vanishing 
with a jerk. If, however, the creature has 
been accidentally turned over during its journey, 
and reaches the top of the water-drop with its 
back uppermost, the vesicles will continue 
growing only on one side, while they diminish 
on the other ; by this means the shell is brought 
first into an oblique and then into a vertical 
position, until one of the pseudopodia obtains 
a footing and the whole turns over. From the 
moment the animal has obtained foothold, the 
bladders become immediately smaller, and after 
they have disappeared the experiment may be 
repeated at pleasure. 

The positions of the protoplasm which the 
vesicles fashion change continually; only the 


grainless protoplasm of the pseudopodia de- 
velops no air. After long and fruitless efforts 
a manifest fatigue sets in ; the animal gives up 
the attempt for a time, and resumes it after an 
interval of repose. 

Engelmann, the discoverer of these pheno- 
mena, says (PflUger's Archiv fUr Physologie, 
Bd. II.) : — ** The changes in volume in all the 
vesicles of the same animal are for the most part 
synchronous, effected in the same manner, and 
of like size. There are, however, not a few ex- 
ceptions ; it often happens that some of them 
increase or diminish in volume much faster than 
others; sometimes one may increase while 
another diminishes ; all the changes, however, 
are throughout unquestionably intentional. The 
object of the air- vesicles is to bring the animal 
into such a position that it can take fast hold 
of something with its pseudopodia. When this 
has been obtained, the air disappears without 
our being able to discover any other reason for 
its disappearance than the fact that it is no 
longer needed. ... If we bear these circum- 
stances in mind, we can almost always tell 
whether an arcella will develop air- vesicles or 
no ; and if it has already developed them, we 
can tell whether they will increase or diminish. 
. ; . The arceilce^ in fact, in this power of alter- 


ing their specific gravity possess a mechanism 
for raising themselves to the top of the water, 
or lowering themselves to the bottom at will. 
They use this not only in the abnormal cir- 
cumstances of their being under microscopical 
observation, but at all times, as may be known 
by our being always able to find some speci- 
mens with air-bladders at the top of the water 
in which they live." 

If what has been already advanced has failed 
to convince the reader of the hopelessness of 
attempting to explain instinct as a mode of 
conscious deliberation, he must admit that the 
following considerations are conclusive. It is 
most certain that deliberation and conscious 
reflection can only take account of such data 
as are consciously perceived ; if, then, it can 
be shown that data absolutely* indispensable 
for the arrival at a just conclusion cannot by 
any possibility have been known consciously, 
the result can no longer be held as having 
had its source in conscious deliberation. It is 
admitted that the only way in which conscious- 
ness can arrive at a knowledge of exterior 
facts is by way of an impression made upon 
the senses. We must, therefore, prove that a 
knowledge of the facts indispensable for arrival 
at a just conclusion could not have been thus 

1 7 2 UN CO NSC 10 US MEMOR Y. 

acquired. This may be done as follows :^ — 
for, Firstly, the facts in question lie in the 
future, and the present gives no ground for 
conjecturing the time and manner of their 
subsequent development. 

Secondly, they are manifestly debarred from 
the category of perceptions perceived through 
the senses, inasmuch as no information can be 
derived concerning them except through ex- 
perience of similar occurrences in time past, and 
such experience is plainly out of the question. 

It would not affect the argument if, as I 
think likely, it were to turn out, with the advance 
of our physiological knowledge, that all the 
examples of the first case that I am about to 

^ '' Dieser Beweis ist dadurch zu fiihren ; erstens dass die betreffcDden 
Thatsachen in der Zukunft liegen, und dem Verstande die Anhalte- 
punkte fehlen, um ihr zukiinftiges Eintreten aus den gegenwartigen 
Verhaltnissen zu erschliessen ; zweitens, dass die betreffenden That- 
sachen augenscheinlichder sinnlichen Wahrnehmungverschlossen liegen, 
veil nur die Erfahrung friiherer Falle iiber sie belehren kann, und 
diese laut der Beobachtung ausgeschlossen ist. Es wiirde (Ur unsere 
Interessen keinen Unterschied machen, wenn, was ich wahrscheinlfch 
halte, bei fortschreitender physiologischer Erkenntniss alle jetzt fiir den 
ersten Fall anzufiihrenden Beispiele sich als solche des zweiten Falls 
ausweisen soUten, wie dies unleugbar bei vielen friiher gebrauchten 
Beispielen schon geschehen ist; denn ein apriorisches Wissen ohne 
jeden sinnlichen Anstoss ist wohl kaum wunderbarer zu nennen, als 
ein Wissen, welches zwar M Gelegenheit gewisser sinnlicher Wahrneh- 
mung zu Tage tritt, aber mit diesen nur durch eine solche Kette von 
SchlUssen und angewandten Kenntnissen in Verbindung stehend gedacht 
werden konnte, dass deren Moglichkeit bei dem Zustande der Fahig- 
keiten und Bildung der betreffenden Thiere entschieden geleugnet 
werden muss." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 85. 


adduce reduce themselves to examples of the 
second, as must be admitted to have already 
happened in respect of many that I have 
adduced hitherto. For it is hardly more diffi- 
cult to conceive of a priori knowledge, discon- 
nected from any impression made upon the 
senses, than of knowledge which, it is true, does 
at the present day manifest itself upon the 
occasion of certain general perceptions, but 
which can only be supposed to be connected 
with these by means of such a chain of infer- 
ences and judiciously applied knowledge as 
cannot be believed to exist when we have 
regard to the capacity and organisation of the 
animal we may be considering. 

An example of the first case is supplied by 
the larva of the stag-beetle in its endeavour 
to make itself a convenient hole in which to 
become a chrysalis. The female larva digs 
a hole exactly her own size, but the male makes 
one as long again as himself, so as to allow for 
the growth of his horns, which will be about 
the same length as his body. A knowledge of 
this circumstance is indispensable if the result 
achieved is to be considered as due to reflec- 
tion, yet the actual present of the larva affords 
it no ground for conjecturing beforehand the 
condition in which it will presently find itself. 



As regards the second case, ferrets and buz- 
zards fall forthwith upon blind worms or other 
non-poisonous snakes, and devour them then 
and there. But they exhibit the greatest 
caution in laying hold of adders, even though 
they have never before seen one, and will en- 
deavour first to bruise their heads, so as to 
avoid being bitten. As there is nothing in 
any other respect alarming in the adder, a con- 
scious knowledge of the danger of its bite is 
indispensable, if the conduct above described is 
to be referred to conscious deliberation. But 
this could only have been acquired through ex- 
perience, and the possibility of such experience 
may be controlled in the case of animals that 
have been kept in captivity from their youth 
up, so that the knowledge displayed can be 
ascertained to be independent of experience. 
On the other hand, both the above illustra- 
tions afford evidence of an unconscious percep- 
tion of the facts, and prove the existence of a 
direct knowledge underivable from any sensual 
impression or from consciousness. 

This has always been recognised,^ and has 

^ ** Man hat dieselbe jederzeit anerkannt und mit den Worten Vorge- 
fiihl oder Ahnung bezeichnet ; indess beziehen sich diese Worte einer- 
seits nur auf zukunftiges, nicht auf gegenwartiges, raumlich getrenhtes 
Unwahrnehmbares, anderseits bezeichnen sie nur die leise, dumpfe, 
unbestimmte Resonanz des Bewustseins mit dem unfehlbar betsimmten 


been described under the words "presentiment" 
or " foreboding." These words, however, refer, 
on the one hand, only to an unknowable in the 
future, separated from us by space, and not to 
one that is actually present ; on the other hand, 
they denote only the faint, dull, indefinite echo 
returned by consciousness to an invariably dis- 
tinct state of unconscious knowledge. Hence 
the word " presentiment/' which carries with it 
an idea of faintness and indistinctness, while, 
however, it may be easily seen that sentiment 
destitute of all, even unconscious, ideas can 
have no influence upon the result, for know- 
ledge can only follow upon an idea. A pre- 
sentiment that sounds in consonance with our 
consciousness can indeed, under certain circum- 
stances, become tolerably definite, so that in 
the case of man it can be expressed in thought 

Zustande der unbewussten Erkenntniss. Daher das Wort Vorgefuhl 
in Rucksicht auf die Dumpfheit und Unbestimmtheit, wahrend doch 
leicht zu seh«n ist, dass das von' alien, auch den unbewussten Vorstel- 
lungen entblosste Gefiihl fur das Resultat gar keinen Einfluss haben 
kann, sondern nur eine Vorstellung, weil diese allein Erkenntniss enthalt. 
Die in Bewusstsein mitklingende Ahnung kann allerdings unter Urn- 
standen ziemlich deutlich sein, so dass sie sich beim Menschen in 
Gedanken und Wort fixiren lasst ; doch ist dies auch im Menschen 
erfahrungsmassig bei den eigenthiimlichen Instincten nicht der Fall, 
vielmehr ist bei diesen die Resonanz der unbewussten Erkenntniss im 
Bewusstsein meistens so schwach, dass sie sich wirklich nur in beglei- 
tenden Gefiihlen oder der Stimmung aussert, dass sie einen unendlich 
kleinen Bruchtheil des Gemeingefiihls bildet." — Philosophy of the Un- 
conscious^ 3d ed., p. 86. 


and language ; but experience teaches us that 
even among ourselves this is not so when 
instincts special to the human race come into 
play ; we see rather that the echo of our un- 
conscious knowledge that finds its way into 
our consciousness is so weak that it manifests 
itself only in the accompanying feelings or frame 
of mind, and represents but an infinitely small 
fraction of the sum of our sensations. It is ob- 
vious that such a faintly sympathetic conscious- 
ness cannot form a sufficient foundation for a 
superstructure of conscious deliberation ; on the 
other hand, conscious deliberation would be un- 
necessary, inasmuch as the process of thinking 
must have been already gone through uncon- 
sciously, for every faint presentiment that ob- 
trudes itself upon our consciousness is in fact 
only the consequence of a distinct unconscious 
knowledge, and the knowledge with which it 
is concerned is almost always an idea of the 
purpose of some instinctive action, or of one 
most intimately connected therewith. Thus, 
in the case of the stag-beetle, the purpose 
consists in the leaving space for the growth of 
the horns ; the means, in the digging the hole 
of a sufficient size ; and the unconscious know- 
ledge, in prescience concerning the future 
development of the horns. 


Lastly, all instinctive actions give us an im- 
pression of absolute security and infallibility. 
With instinct the will is never hesitating or 
weak, as it is when inferences are being drawn 
consciously. We never find instinct making 
mistakes ; we cannot, therefore, ascribe a result 
which is so invariably precise to such an obscure 
condition of mind as is implied when the word 
presentiment is used ; on the contrary, this 
absolute certainty is so characteristic a feature 
of instinctive actions, that it constitutes almost 
the only well-marked point of distinction 
between these and actions that are done upon 
reflection. But from this it must again follow 
that some principle lies at the root of instinct 
other than that which underlies reflective action, 
and this can only be looked for in a determina- 
tion of the will through a process that lies in 
the unconscious,^ to which this character of un- 
hesitating infallibility will attach itself in all our 
future investigations. 

Many will be surprised at my ascribing to 
instinct an unconscious knowledge, arising out 
of no sensual impression, and yet invariably 
accurate. This, however, is not a consequence 

^ " In der Bestimmung des Willens durch einen im Unbewussten 
liegenden Process . . . fiir welchen sich dieser Character der zwei- 
fellosen Selbstgewissheit in alien folgenden Untersuchungen bewahren 
wird." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ p. ^7. 



of my theory concerning instinct; it is the 
foundation on which that theory is based, and 
is forced upon us by facts. I must therefore 
adduce examples. And to give a name to the 
unconscious knowledge, which is not acquired 
through impression made upon the senses, but 
which will be found to be in our possession, 
though attained without the instrumentality of 
means,^ I prefer the word "clairvoyance"* to 
"presentiment," which, for reasons already 
given, will not serve me. This word, there- 
fore, will be here employed throughout, as 
above defiped. 

Let us now consider examples of the instincts 
of self-preservation, subsistence, migration, and 
the continuation of the species. Most animals 
know their natural enemies prior to experience 
of any hostile designs upon themselves. A 
flight of young pigeons, even though they have 
no old birds with them, will become shy, and 
will separate from one another on the approach 
of a bird of prey. Horses and cattle that come 
from countries where there are no lions become 
unquiet and display alarm as soon as they are 
aware that a lion is approaching them in the 
night. Horses going along a bridle-path that 

* "Sondern als unmittelbarer Besitz vorgefundenwird." — Philosophy 
of the Unconscious^ p. 87. * "Hellsehen." 


used to leave the town at the back of the old 
dens of the carnivora in the Berlin Zoological 
Gardens were often terrified by the propinquity 
of enemies who were entirely unknown to them. 
Sticklebacks will swim composedly among a 
number of voracious pike, knowing, as they do, 
that the pike will not touch them. For if a 
pike once by mistake swallows a stickleback, 
the stickleback will stick in its throat by reason 
of the spine it carries upon its back, and the 
pike must starve to death without being able 
to transmit his painful experience to his de- 
scendants. In some countries there are people 
who by choice eat dog s flesh ; dogs are invari- 
ably savage in the presence of these persons, 
as recognising in them enemies at whose hands 
they may one day come to harm. This is the 
more wonderful inasmuch as dog's fat applied 
externally (as when rubbed upon boots) attracts 
dogs by its smell. Grant saw a young chim- 
panzee throw itself into convulsions of terror at 
the first sight of a large snake ; and even among 
ourselves a Gretchen can often detect a Mephis- 
topheles. An insect of the genus bombyx will 
seize another of the genus pamopcea^ and kill it 
wherever it finds it, without making any subse- 
quent use* of the body ; but we know that the 
last-named insect lies in wait for the eggs of the 


first, and is therefore the natural enemy of its 
race. The phenomenon known to stockdrivers 
and shepherds as "das Biesen des Viehes" 
affords another example. For when a "dassel" 
or "bies" fly draws near the herd, the cattle 
become unmanageable and run about among 
one another as though they were mad, knowing, 
as they do, that the larvse from the eggs which 
the fly will lay upon them will presently pierce 
their hides and occasion them painful sores. 
These "dassel" flies — which have no sting — 
closely resemble another kind of gadfly which 
has a sting. Nevertheless, this last kind is 
little feared by cattle, while the first is so to 
an inordinate extent. The laying of the eggs 
upon the skin is at the time quite painless, and 
no ill consequences follow until long afterwards, 
so that we cannot suppose the cattle to draw a 
conscious inference concerning the connection 
that exists between the two. I have already 
spoken of the foresight shown by ferrets and 
buzzards in respect of adders ; in like manner 
a young honey-buzzard, on being shown a wasp 
for the first time, immediately devoured it after 
having squeezed the sting from its body. 

No animal, whose instinct has not been 
vitiated by unnatural habits, will eat poisonous 
plants. Even when apes have contracted bad 


habits through their having been brought into 
contact with mankind, they can still be trusted 
to show us whether certain fruits found in their 
native forests are poisonous or no ; for if 
poisonous fruits are offered them they will 
refuse them with loud cries. Every animal 
will choose for its sustenance exactly those 
animal or vegetable substances which agree 
best with its digestive organs, without having 
received any instruction on the matter, and 
without testing them beforehand. Even, in- 
deed, though we assume that the power of 
distinguishing the different kinds of food is 
due to sight and not to smell, it remains none 
the less mysterious how the animal can know 
what it is that will agree with it. Thus the 
kid which Galen took prematurely from its 
mother smelt at all the different kinds of food 
that were set before it, but drank only the 
milk without touching anything else. The 
cherry-finch opens a cherry-stone by turning 
it so that her beak can hit the part where the 
two sides join, and does this as much with 
the first stone she cracks as with the last. 
Fitchets, martens, and weasels make small 
holes on the opposite sides of an ^gg which 
they are about to suck, so that the air may 
come in while they are sucking. Not only do 


animals know the food that will suit them best, 
but they find out the most suitable remedies 
when they are ill, and constantly form a correct 
diagnosis of their malady with a therapeutical 
knowledge which they cannot possibly have 
acquired. Dogs will often eat a great quan- 
tity of grass — particularly couch-grass — when 
they are unwell, especially after spring, if 
they have worms, which thus pass from them 
entangled in the grass, or if they want to get 
fragments of bone from out of their stomachs. 
As a purgative they make use of plants that 
sting. Hens and pigeons pick lime from walls 
and pavements if their food does not afford 
them lime enough to make their eggshells 
with. Little children eat chalk when suffer- 
ing from acidity of the stomach, and pieces of 
charcoal if they are troubled with flatulence. 
We may observe these same instincts for 
certain kinds of food or drugs even among 
grown-up people, under circumstances in which 
their unconscious nature has unusual power; 
as, for example, among women when they are 
pregnant, whose capricious appetites are pro- 
bably due to some special condition of the 
foetus, which renders a certain state of the 
blood desirable. Field-mice bite off the 
germs of the com which they collect together. 


in order to prevent its growing during the 
winter. Some days before the beginning of 
cold weather the squirrel is most assiduous 
in augmenting its store, and then closes its 
dwelling. Birds of passage betake them- 
selves to warmer countries at times when there 
is still no scarcity of food for them here, and 
when the temperature is considerably warmer 
than it will be when they return to us. The 
same holds good of the time -v^hen animals 
begin to prepare their winter quarters, which 
beetles constantly do during the very hottest 
days of autumn. When swallows and storks 
find their way back to their native places over 
distances of hundreds of miles, iand though the 
aspect of the coutitry is reversed, we say that 
this is due to the acutehess of their perception 
of locality; but the same cannot be said of 
dogs, whichi though they have been carried in a 
bag from one place to another that they do not 
know, and have been turned round and round 
twenty times over, have still been kriown to 
find their way home. Here we can say no more 
than that their instinct has conducted them — 
that the clairvoyance of the unconscious has 
allowed them to conjecture their way.'** 

* " Das Hellsehen des Unbewussten hat sie den rechten Weg ahnea 
lassen." — Philosophy of the Unconscious ^ p. 90, 3d ed., 1871. 


Before an early winter, birds of passage • 
collect themselves in preparation for their 
flight sooner than usual ; but when the winter 
is going to be mild, they will either not 
migrate at all, or travel only a small distance 
southward. When a hard winter is coming, 
tortoises will make their burrows deeper. If 
wild geese, cranes, &c., soon return from the 
countries to which they had betaken them- 
selves at the beginning of spring, it is a sign 
that a hot and dry summer is about to ensue 
in those countries, and that the drought will 
prevent their being able to rear their young. 
In years of flood, beavers construct their 
dwellings at a higher level than usual, and 
shortly before an inundation the field-mice in 
Kamtschatka come out of their holes in large 
bands. If the summer is going to be dry, 
spiders may be seen in May and April, hang- 
ing from the ends of threads several feet in 
length. If in winter spiders are seen running 
about much, fighting with one another and 
preparing new webs, there will be cold weather 
within the next nine days, or from that to 
twelve : when they again hide themselves there 
will be a thaw. I have no doubt that much of 
this power of prophesying the weather is due to 
a perception of certain atmospheric conditions 


which escape ourselves, but this perception 
can only have relation to a certain actual and 
now present condition of the weather ; and 
what can the impression made by this have 
to do with their idea of the weather that will 
ensue ? No one will ascribe to animals a 
power of prognosticating the weather months 
beforehand by means of inferences drawn 
logically from a series of observations/ to 
the extent of being able even to foretell floods. 
It is far more probable that the power of per- 
ceiving subtle differences of actual atmospheric 
condition is nothing more than the sensual 
perception which acts as motive — for a motive 

^ " Man wird doch wahrlich nicht den Thieren zumuthen woUen, 
durch meteorologische Schliisse das Wetter auf Monate im Voraus zu 
berechnen, ja sogar Ueberschwemmungen vorauszosehen. Vielmehr 
ist eine solche Gefuhlswahmehmung gegenwartiger atmospharischer 
Einflusse nichts weiter als die sinnliche Wahrnehmung, welche als 
Motiv wirkt, und ein Motiv muss ja doch immer vorhanden sein, 
wenn ein Instinct functioniren soil. £s bleibt also trotzdem bestehen, 
dass das Voraussehen der Witterang ein unbewusstes Hellsehen ist, 
von dem der Storch, der vier Wochen friiher nach Suden aufbricht, so 
wenig etwas weiss, als der Hirsch, der sich vor einem kalten Winter 
einen dickeren Pelz als gewohnlich wachsen lasst. Die Thiere haben 
eben einerseits das gegenwartige Witterungsgefiihl im Bewusstsein, 
daraus folgt andererseits ihr Handeln gerade so, als ob sie die Vor- 
stellung der zukiinftigen Witterung batten ; im Bewusstsein haben sie 
dieselbe aber nicht, also bietet sich als einzig natUrliches Mittelglied 
die unbewusste Vorstellung, die nun aber immer ein Hellsehen ist, weil 
sie etwas enthalt, was dem Thier weder durch sinnliche Wahmehmung 
direct gegeben ist, noch durch seine Verstandesmittel aus der Wahmeh- 
mung geschlossen werden kann." — Philosophy of the Unconscious ^ p. 91, 
3ded., 1871.* 


must assuredly be always present — when an 
instinct comes into operation. It continues to 
hold good, therefore, that the power of fore- 
seeing the weather is a case of unconscious 
clairvoyance, of which the stork which takes its 
departure for the south four weeks earlier than 
usual knows no more than does the stag when 
before a cold winter he grows himself a thicker 
pelt than is his wont. 

On the one hand, animals have present in 
their consciousness a perception of the actual 
state of the weather ; on the other, their ensuing 
action is precisely such as it would be if the idea 
present with them was that of the weather that 
is about to come. This they cannot consciously 
have ; the only natural intermediate link, there- 
fore, between their conscious knowledge and 
their action is supplied by unconscious idea, 
which, however, is always accurately prescient, 
inasmuch as it contains something which is 
neither given directly to the animal through 
sensual perception, nor can be deduced infer- 
entially through the understanding. 

Most wonderful of all are the instincts con- 
nected with the continuation of the species. 
The males always find out the females of their 
own kind, but certainly not solely through their 
resemblance to themselves. With many animals, 


as, for example, parasitic crabs, the sexes so little 
resemble one another that the male would be 
more likely to seek a mate from the females of 
a thousand other species than from his own. 
Certain butterflies are polymorphic, and not 
only do the males and females of the same 
species differ, but the females present two 
distinct forms, one of which as a general rule 
mimics the outward appearance of a distant but 
highly valued species ; yet the males will pair 
only with the females of their own kind, and 
not with the strangers, though these may be 
very likely much more like the males them- 
selves. Among the insect species of the strep- 
siptera^ the female is a shapeless worm which 
lives its whole life long in the hind body of a 
wasp ; its head, which is of the shape of a lentil, 
protrudes between two of the belly rings of the 
wasp, the rest of its body being inside. The 
male, which only lives for a few hours, and 
resembles a moth, nevertheless recognises his 
mate in spite of these adverse circumstances, 
and fecundates her. 

Before any experience of parturition, the 
knowledge that it is approaching drives all 
mammals into solitude, and bids them prepare 
a nest for their young in a hole or in some 
other place of shelter. The bird builds her 


nest as soon as she feels the eggs coming to 
maturity within her. Snails, land-crabs, tree- 
frogs, and toads, all of them ordinarily dwellers 
upon land, now betake themselves to the water ; 
sea-tortoises go on shore, and many salt-water 
fishes come up into the rivers in order to lay 
their eggs where they can alone find the requi- 
sites for their development. Insects lay their 
eggs in the most varied kinds of. situations, — 
in sand, on leaves, under the hides and horny 
substances of other animals ; they often select 
the spot where the larva will be able most 
readily to find its future sustenance, as in 
autumn upon the trees that will open first in 
the coming spring, or in spring upon the 
blossoms that will first bear fruit in autumn, 
or in the insides of those caterpillars which will 
soonest as chrysalises provide the parasitic 
larva at once with food and with protection. 
Other insects select the sites from which they 
will first get forwarded to the destination best 
adapted for their development. Thus some 
horseflies lay their eggs upon the lips of horses 
or upon parts where they are accustomed to 
lick themselves. The eggs get conveyed hence 
into the entrails, the proper place for their de- 
velopment, — and are excreted upon their arrival 
at maturity. The flies that infest cattle know 


SO well how to select the most vigorous and 
healthiest beasts, that cattle-dealers and tanners 
place entire dependence upon them, and prefer 
those beasts and hides that are most scarred by 
maggots. This selection of the best cattle by 
the help of these flies is no evidence in sup- 
port of the conclusion that the flies possess the 
power of making experiments consciously and 
of reflecting thereupon, even though the men 
whose trade it is to do this recognise them as 
their masters. The solitary wasp makes a 
hole several inches deep in the sand, lays her 
^ZZy and packs along with it a number of 
green maggots that have no legs, and which, 
being on the point of becoming chrysalises, 
are well nourished and able to go a long time 
without food; she packs these maggots so 
closely together that they cannot move nor 
turn into chrysalises, and just enough of them 
to support the larva until it becomes a chry- 
salis. A kind of bug {cerceris bupresticidd) ^ 
which itself lives only upon pollen, lays her 
eggs in an underground cell, and with each 
one of them she deposits three beetles, which 
she has lain in wait for and captured when they 
were still weak through having only just left 
off being chrysalises. She kills these beetles, 
and appears to smear them with a fluid where- 


by she preserves them fresh and suitable for 
food. Many kinds of wasps open the cells in 
which their larvae are confined when these must 
have consumed the provision that was left with 
them. They supply them with more food, and 
again close the cell. Ants, again, hit always 
upon exactly the right moment for opening the 
cocoons in which their larvae are confined and 
for setting them free, the larva being unable 
to do this for itself. Yet the life of only a few 
kinds of insects lasts longer than a single 
breeding season. What then can they know 
about the contents of their eggs and the fittest 
place for their development ? What can they 
know about the kind of food the larva will 
want when it leaves the ^^^ — a food so dif- 
ferent from their own ? What, again, can they 
know about the quantity of food that will be 
necessary ? How much of all this at least can 
they know consciously? Yet their actions, 
the pains they take, and the importance they 
evidently attach to these matters, prove that 
they have a foreknowledge of the future : this 
knowledge therefore can only be an unconscious 
clairvoyance. For clairvoyance it must cer- 
tainly be that inspires the will of an animal to 
open cells and cocoons at the very moment 
that the larva is either ready for more food or 


fit for leaving the cocoon. The eggs of the 
cuckoo do not take only from two to three 
days to mature in her ovaries, as those of mo$t 
birds do, but require from eleven to twelve ; 
the cuckoo, therefore, cannot sit upon her own 
eggs, for her first t.^^ would be spoiled before 
the last was laid. She therefore lays in other 
birds nests — of covirse laying each egg in a 
different nest. But in order that the birds may 
not perceive her ^gg to be a stranger and turn 
it out of the nest, not only does she lay an t,%g 
much smaller than might be expected from a 
bird of her size (for she only finds her 'oppor- 
tunity among small birds), but, as already said, 
she imitates the other eggs in the nest she ha$ 
selected with surprising accuracy in respect 
both of colour and marking. As the cuckoo 
chooses the nest some days beforehand, it may 
be thought, if the nest is an open one, that the 
cuckoo looks upon the colour of the eggs within 
it while her own is in process of maturing 
inside her, and that it is thus her ^gg comes 
to assume the colour of the others; but this 
explanation will not hold good for nests that 
are made in the holes of trees, as that of 
Sylvia phcenicurus^ or which are oven-shaped 
with a narrow entrance, as '^\\}cisylvia rufa. In 
these cases the cuckoo can neither slip in nor 

■^*— ^i» ■ » ^lwi»ii»'^^pw^fciv<»^i«HW— r^»w I » »- » \ » ■ ' ^ » "■ » - » > . 


look in, and must therefore Jay her ^^^ outside 
the nest and push it inside with her beak ; she 
can therefore have no means of perceiving 
through her senses what the eggs already in 
the nest are like. If, then, in spite of all this, 
her t,gg closely resembles the others, this can 
only have come about through an unconscious 
clairvoyance which directs the process that 
goes on within the ovary in respect of colour 
and marking. 

An important argument in support of the 
existence of a clairvoyance in the instincts of 
animals is to be found in the series of facts 
which testify to the existence of a like clair- 
voyance, under certain circumstances, even 
among human beings, while the self-curative 
instincts of children and of pregnant women 
have been already mentioned. Here, however,^ 
in correspondence with the higher stage of 
development which human consciousness has 

^ "Meistentheils tritt aber hier der hoheren Bewusstseinstufe der 
Menschen entsprechend eine starkere Resonanz des Bewusstseins mit 
dem bewussten Hellsehen hervor, die sich als mehr oder minder 
deutliche Ahnung darstellt. Ausserdem entspricht es der grosseren 
Selbststandigkeit des menschlichen Intellects, dass diese Ahnung nicht 
ausschliesslich Behufs der unmittelbaren Ausfiihrung einer Handlung 
eintritt, sondem bisweilen auch unabhangig von der Bedingung einer 
momentan zu leistenden That als blosse Vorstellung ohne bewussten 
Willen sich zeigte, wenn nur die Bedingung erfullt ist, dass der Gegen- 
stand dieses Ahnens den Willen des Ahnenden im Allgemeinen in 
hohem Grade interessirt." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 94. 


attained, a stronger echo of the unconscious clair- 
voyance commonly resounds within conscious- 
ness itself, and this is represented by a more 
or less definite presentiment of the consequences 
that will ensue. It is also in accord with the 
greater independence of the human intellect 
that this kind of presentiment is not felt ex- 
clusively immediately before the carrying out 
of an action, but is occasionally disconnected 
from the condition that an action has to be per- 
formed immediately, and displays itself simply 
as an idea independently of conscious will, pro- 
vided only that the matter concerning which 
the presentiment is felt is one which in a high 
degree concerns the will of the person who 
feels it In the intervals of an intermittent 
fever or of other illness, it not unfrequently 
happens that sick persons can accurately fore- 
tell the day of an approaching attack and how 
long it will last. The same thing occurs almost 
invariably in the case of spontaneous, and 
generally in that of artificial, somnambulism ; 
certainly the Pythia, as is well known, used to 
announce the date of her next ecstatic state. 
In like manner the curative instinct displays 
itself in somnambulists, and they have been 
known to select remedies that have been no 
less remarkable for the success attending their 



employment than for the completeness with 
which they have run counter to received pro- 
fessional opinion. The indication of medicinal 
remedies is the only use which respectable 
electro-biologists will make of the half-sleeping, 
half-waking condition of those whom they are 
influencing. " People in perfectly sound health 
have been known, before childbirth or at 
the commencement of an illness, to predict 
accurately their own approaching death. The 
accomplishment of their predictions can hardly 
be explained as the result of mere chance, 
for if this were all, the prophecy should 
fail at least as often as not, whereas the 
reverse is actually the case. Many of these 
persons neither desire death nor fear it, so 
that the result cannot be ascribed to imagina- 
tion." So writes the celebrated physiologist, 
Burdach, from whose chapter on presenti- 
ment in his work " Blicke in's Leben " a great 
part of my most striking examples is taken. 
This presentiment of death, which is the ex- 
ception among men, is quite common with 
animals, even though they do not know nor 
understand what death is. When they become 
aware that their end is approaching, they steal 
away to outlying and solitary places. This is 
why in cities we so rarely see the dead body or 


skeleton of a cat. We can only suppose that 
the unconscious clairvoyance, which is of essen- 
tially the same kind whether in man or beast, 
calls forth presentiments of different degrees of 
definiteness, so that the cat is driven to with- 
draw herself through a mere instinct without 
knowing why she does so, while in man a 
definite perception is awakened of the fact that 
he is about to die. Not only do people have 
presentiments concerning their own death, but 
there are many instances on record in which 
they have become aware of that of those near 
and dear to them, the dying person having 
appeared in a dream to friend or wife or 
husband. Stories to this effect prevail among 
all nations, and unquestionably contain much 
truth. Closely connected with this is the power 
of second sight, which existed formerly in Scot- 
land, and still does so in the Danish islands. 
This power enables certain people without any 
ecstasy, but simply through their keener per- 
ception, to foresee coming events, or to tell 
what is going on in foreign countries on matters 
in which they are deeply interested, such as 
deaths, battles, conflagrations (Swedenborg fore- 
told the burning of Stockholm), the arrival or 
the doings of friends who are at a distance. 
With many persons this clairvoyance is confined 


to a knowledge of the death of their acquaint- 
ances or fellow-townspeople. There have been 
a great many instances of such death-pro- 
phetesses, and, what is most important, some 
cases have been verified in courts of law. I 
may say, in passing, that this power of second 
sight is found in persons who are in ecstatic 
states, in the spontaneous or artificially induced 
somnambulism of the higher kinds of waking 
dreams, as well as in lucid moments before 
death. These prophetic glimpses, by which 
the clairvoyance of the unconscious reveals itself 
to consciousness,^ are commonly obscure because 
in the brain they must assume a form percep- 
tible by the senses, whereas the unconscious 
idea can have nothing to do with any form of 
sensual impression : it is for this reason that 
humours, dreams, and the hallucinations of sick 
persons can so easily have a false signification 
attached to them. The chances of error and 
self-deception that arise from this source, the 
ease with which people may be deceived inten- 
tionally, and the mischief which, as a general 
rule, attends a knowledge of the future, these 

^ '' Haufig sind die Ahnungen, in denen das Hellsehen des Unbe- 
wussten sich dem Bewusstsein offenbart, dunkel, unverstandlich und 
symbolisch, weil sie im Gehim sinnliche Form annehmen miissen, 
wahrend die unbewusste Vorstellung an der Form der Sinnlichkeit 
kein Theil haben kann." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., 
p. 96. 



considerations place beyond all doubt the prac- 
tical unwisdom of attempts to arrive at certainty 
concerning the future. This, however, cannot 
affect the weight which in theory should be 
attached to phenomena of this kind, and must 
not prevent us from recognising the positive 
existence of the clairvoyance whose existence I 
am maintaining, though it is often hidden under 
a chaos of madness and imposture. 

The materialistic and rationalistic tendencies 
of the present day lead most people either to 
deny facts of this kind in to to, or to ignore 
them, inasmuch as they are inexplicable from a 
materialistic standpoint, and cannot be estab- 
lished by the inductive or experimental method 
— as though this last were not equally impossible 
in the case of morals, social science, and politics. 
A mind of any candour will only be able to 
deny the truth of this entire class of phenomena 
so long as it remains in ignorance of the facts that 
have been related concerning them; but, again, a 
continuance in this ignorance can only arise from 
unwillingness to be convinced. I am satisfied 
that many of those who deny all human power 
of divination would come to another, and, to say 
the least, more cautious conclusion if they would 
be at the pains of further investigation ; and I 
hold that no one, even at the present day, 


need be ashamed of joining in with an opinion 
which was maintained by all the great spirits of 
antiquity except Epicurus — an opinion whose 
possible truth hardly one of our best modern 
philosophers has ventured to contravene, and 
which the champions of German enlightenment 
were so little disposed to relegate to the domain 
of old wives tales, that Goethe furnishes us 
with an example of second sight that fell within 
his own experience, and confirms it down to its 
minutest details. 

Although I am far from believing that the 
kind of phenomena above referred to form in 
themselves a proper foundation for a super- 
structure of scientific demonstration, I never- 
theless find them valuable as a completion 
and further confirmation of the series of 
phenomena presented to us by the clairvoy- 
ance which we observe in human and animal 
instinct. Even though they only continue this 
series^ through the echo that is awakened 
within our consciousness, they as powerfully 
support the account which instinctive actions 
give concerning their own nature, as they are 
themselves supported by the analogy they 

1 ** Ebenso well es diese Reihe nur in gesteigerter Bewusstsein- 
resonanz fortsetzt, stiitzt es jene Aussagen der Instincthandlungen 
iiber ihr eigenes Wesen ebenso sehr,*' &c. — FhUosophy of the Un- 
conscious, 3d ed., p. 97. 


present to the clairvoyance observable in in- 
stinct. This, then, as well as my desire not to 
lose an opportunity of protesting against a 
modern prejudice, must stand as my reason for 
having allowed myself to refer, in a scientific 
work, to a class of phenomena which has fallen 
at present into so much discredit. 

I will conclude with a few words upon a 
special kind of instinct which has a very in- 
structive bearing upon the subject generally, 
and shows how impossible it is to evade the 
supposition of an unconscious clairvoyance on 
the part of instinct. In the examples adduced 
hitherto, the action of each individual has been 
done on the individual's own behalf, except in 
the case of instincts connected with the con- 
tinuation of the species, where the action 
benefits others — that is to say, the offspring 
of the creature performing it. 

We must now examine the cases in which a 
solidarity of instinct is found to exist between 
several individuals, so that, on the one hand, 
the action of each redounds to the common 
welfare, and, on the other, it becomes possible 
for a useful purpose to be achieved through the 
harmonious association of individual workers. 
This community of instinct exists also among 
the higher animals, but here it is harder to dis- 

2 oo UNCO NSC 10 US MEM OR V. 

tinguish from associations originating through 
conscious will, inasmuch as speech supplies the 
means of a more perfect intercommunication of 
aim and plan. We shall, however, definitely 
recognise^ this general effect of a universal 
instinct in the origin of speech and in the great 
political and social movements in the history of 
the world. Here we are concerned only with 
the simplest and most definite examples that 
can be found anywhere, and therefore we will 
deal in preference with the lower animals, 
among which, in the absence of voice, the means 
of communicating thought, mimicry, and phy- 
siognomy, are so imperfect that the harmony 
and interconnection of the individual actions 
cannot in its main points be ascribed to 
an understanding arrived at through speech. 
Huber observed ^that when a new comb was 
being constructed a number of the largest work- 
ing-bees, that were full of honey, took no part in 
the ordinary business of the others, but remained 

1 ** Wir werden trotzdem diese gemeinsame Wirkung eines Massen- 
inslincts in der Entstehung der Sprache und den grossen politischen 
und socialen Bewegungen in der Weltgeschichte deutlich wieder 
erkennen ; hier handelt es sich um moglichst einfache . und deutliche 
Beispiele, und darum greifen wir zu niederen Thieren, wo die Mittel 
der Gedankenmittheilung bei fehlender Stimme, Mimik und Physio- 
gnomie so unvoUkommen sind, dass die Uebereinstimmung und das 
Ineinandergreifen der einzelnen Leistungen in den Hauptsachen 
unmoglich der bewussten Verstandigung durch Sprache zugeschrieben 
werden ^zxV* — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d. ed., p. 98. 



perfectly aloof. Twenty-four hours afterwards 
small plates of wax had formed under their 
bellies. The bee drew these off with her hind- 
feet, masticated them, and made them into a 
band. The small plates of wax thus prepared 
were then glued to the roof of the hive one on 
the top of the other. When one of the bees of 
this kind had used up her plates of wax, another 
followed her and carried the same work forward 
in the same way. A thin rough vertical wall, 


half a line in thickness and fastened to the sides 
of the hive, was thus constructed. On this, one 
of the smaller working-bees whose belly was 
empty came, and after surveying the wall, made 
a flat half oval excavation in the middle of one 
of its sides ; she piled up the wax thus excavated 
round the edge of the excavation. After a 
short time she was relieved by another like her- 
self, till more than twenty followed one another 
in this way. Meanwhile another bee began to 
make a similar hollow on the other side of the 
wall, but corresponding only with the rim of 
the excavation on this side. Presently another 
bee began a second hollow upon the same side, 
each bee being continually relieved by others. 
Other bees kept coming up and bringing under 
their bellies plates of wax, with which they 
heightened the edge of the small wall of wax. 


In this, new bees were constantly excavating 
the ground for more cells, while others pro- 
ceeded by degrees to bring those already begun 
into a perfectly symmetrical shape, and at the 
same time continued building up the prismatic 
walls between them. Thus the bees worked 
on opposite sides of the wall of wax, always on 
the same plan and in the closest correspondence 
with those upon the other side, until eventually 
the cells on both sides were completed in all 
their wonderful regularity and harmony of 
arrangement, not merely as regards those stand- 
ing side by side, but also as regards those which 
were upon the other side of their pyramidal 

Let the reader consider how animals that 
are accustomed to confer together, by speech 
or otherwise, concerning designs which they 
may be pursuing in common, will wrangle with 
thousand-fold diversity of opinion ; let him 
reflect how often something has to be undone, 
destroyed, and done over again ; how at one 
time too many hands come forward, and at 
another too few ; what running to and fro there 
is before each has found his right place ; how 
often too many, and again too few, present 
themselves for a relief gang ; and how we find 
all this in the concerted works of men, who 


stand so far higher than bees in the scale of 

organisation. We see nothing of the kind 


among bees. A survey of their operations 
leaves rather the impression upon us as though 
an invisible master-builder had prearranged a 
scheme of action for the entire community, and 
had impressed it upon each individual member, 
as though each class of workers had learnt their 
appointed work by heart, knew their places and 
the numbers in which they should relieve each 
other, and were informed instantaneously by a 
secret signal of the moment when their action 
was wanted. This, however, is exactly the 
manner in which an instinct works ; and as the 
intention of the entire community is instinctively 
present in the unconscious clairvoyance^ of 
each individual bee, so the possession of this 
common instinct impels each one of them to 
the discharge of her special duties when the 
right moment has arrived. It is only thus that 
the wonderful tranquillity and order which we 
observe could be attained. What we are to 
think concerning this common instinct must 
be reserved for explanation later on, but the 
possibility of its existence is already evident, 

^ " Und wie durch Instinct der Plan des ganzen Stocks in unbewus- 
stem Hellsehen jeder einzelnen Biene einwohnt." — Philosophy of the 
Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 99. 


inasmuch ^ as each individual has an unconscious 
insight concerning the plan proposed to itself 


by the community, and also concerning the 
means immediately to be adopted through 
concerted action — of which, however, only the 
part requiring his own co-operation is present 
in the consciousness of each. Thus, for ex- 
ample, the larva of the bee itself spins the 
silky chamber in which it is to become a 
chrysalis, but other bees must close it with 
its lid of wax. The purpose of there being a 
chamber in which the larva can become a 
chrysalis must be present in the minds of each 
of these two parties to the transaction, but 
neither of them acts under the influence of 
conscious will, except in regard to his own 
particular department. I have already men- 
tioned the fact that the larva, after its meta- 
morphosis, must be freed from its cell by other 
bees, and have told how the working-bees in 
autumn kill the drones, so that they may not 
have to feed a number of useless mouths 
throughout the winter, and how they only spare 
them when they are wanted in order to fecun- 
date a new queen. Furthermore, the working- 

^ ** Indem jedes individuum den Plan des Ganzen und Sammtliche 
gegenwartig zu ergreifende Mittel im unbewussten Hellsehen hat, 
wovon aber nur das Eine, was ihm zu thun obliegt, in sein Bewusstsein 
fallt." — Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 99. 


bees build cells in which the eggs laid by the 
queen may come to maturity, and, as a general 
rule, make just as many chambers as the queen 
lays eggs ; they make these, moreover, in the 
same order as that in which the queen lays her 
eggs, namely, first for the working-bees, then 
for the drones, and lastly for the queens. In 
the polity of the bees, the working and the 
sexual capacities, which were once united, are 
now personified in three distinct kinds of in- 
dividual, and these combine with an inner, 
unconscious, spiritual union, so as to form a 
single body politic, as the organs of a living 
body combine to form the body itself. 

In this chapter, therefore, we have arrived 
at the following conclusions :— 

Instinct is not the result of conscious de- 
liberation ;^ it is not a consequence of bodily 
organisation ; it is not a mere result of a 
mechanism which lies in the organisation of 
the brain ; it is not the operation of dead 
mechanism, glued on, as it were, to the soul, 
and foreign to its inmost essence ; but it is the 

^ "Der Instinct ist nicht Resultat bewusster Ueberlegung, nicht 
Folge der korperlichen Organisation, nicht blosses Resultat eines in 
der Organisation des Gehirns gelegenen Mechanismus, nicht Wirkung 
^ines dem Geiste von aussen angeklebten todten, seinem innersten 
Wesen fremden Mechanismus, sondern selbsteigene Leistung des 
Individuum aus seinem innersten Wesen und Character entspringend/' 
— Philosophy of the Unconscious^ 3d ed., p. 100. 


spontaneous action of the individual, springing 
from his most essential nature and character. 
The purpose to which any particular kind of 
instinctive action is subservient is not the pur- 
pose of a soul standing outside the individual 
and near akin to Providence — a purpose once 
for all thought out, and now become a matter 
of necessity to the individual, so that he can 
act in no other way, though it is engrafted into 
his nature from without, and not natural to it. 
The purpose of the instinct is in each individual 
case thought out and willed unconsciously by 
the individual, and afterwards the choice of 
means adapted to each particular case is arrived 
at unconsciously. A knowledge of the purpose 
is often absolutely unattainable^ by conscious 
knowledge through sensual perception. Then 
does the peculiarity of the unconscious display 
itself in the clairvoyance of which consciousness 
perceives partly only a faint and dull, and 
partly, as in the case of man, a more or less 
definite echo by way of sentiment, whereas the 
instinctive action itself — the carrying out of the 

1 * * Haufig ist die Kenntniss des Zwecks der bewussten Erkenntniss 
durch sinnliche Wahmehmung gar nicht zuganglich ; dann documentirt 
sich die Eigenthiimlichkeit des Unbewussten im Hellsehen, von wel- 
chem das Bewusstsein theils nur eine verschwindend dumpfe, theils 
auch namentlich beitn Menschen mehr oder minder deutliche Resonanz 
als Ahnung verspUrt." — Philosophy of the Unconscwus^ 3d cd., p. 100. 


means necessary for the achievement of the 
unconscious purpose — falls always more clearly 
within consciousness, inasmuch as due per- 
formance of what is necessary would be other- 
wise impossible. Finally, the clairvoyance 
makes itself perceived in the concerted action 
of several individuals combining to carry out a 
common but unconscious purpose. 

Up to this point we have encountered clair- 
voyance as a fact which we observe but can- 
not explain, and the reader may say that he 
prefers to take his stand here, and be content 
with regarding instinct simply as a matter of 
fact, the explanation of which is at present 
beyond our reach. Against this it must be 
urged, firstly, that clairvoyance is not confined 
to instinct, but is found also in man ; secondly, 
that clairvoyance is by no means present in 
all instincts, and that therefore our experience 
shows us clairvoyance and instinct as two dis- 
tinct things — clairvoyance being of great use in 
explaining instinct, but instinct serving nothing 
to explain clairvoyance ; thirdly and lastly, that 
the clairvoyance of the individual will not con- 
tinue to be so incomprehensible to us, but will 
be perfectly well explained in the further course 
of our investigation, while we must give up all 
hope of explaining instinct in any other way. 


The conception we have thus arrived at 
enables us to regard instinct as the innermost 
kernel, so to speak, of every living being. 
That this is actually the case is shown by the 
instincts of self-preservation and of the con- 
tinuation of the species which we observe 
throughout creation, and by the heroic self- 
abandonment with which the individual will 
sacrifice welfare, and even life, at the bidding 
of instinct. We see this when we think of 
the caterpillar, and how she repairs her cocoon 
until she yields to exhaustion ; of the bird, and 
how she will lay herself to death ; of the dis- 
quiet and grief displayed by all migratory 
animals if they are prevented from migrating. 
A captive cuckoo will always die at the ap- 
proach of winter through despair at being 
unable to fly away ; so will the vineyard snail 
if it is hindered of its winter sleep. The 
weakest mother will encounter an enemy far 
surpassing her in strength, and suffer death 
cheerfully for her offspring's sake. Every year 
we see fresh cases of people who have been 
unfortunate going mad or committing suicide. 
Women who have survived the Caesarian 
operation allow themselves so little to be 
deterred from further childbearing through 
fear of this frightful and generally fatal opera- 


tion, that they will undergo it no less than 
three times. Can we suppose that what so 
closely resembles demoniacal possession can 
have come about through something engrafted 
on to the soul as a mechanism foreign to its 
inner nature/ or through conscious deliberation 
which adheres always to a bare egoism, and is 
utterly incapable of such self-sacrifice for the 
sake of offspring as is displayed by the pro- 
creative and maternal instincts ? 

We have now, finally, to consider how it 
arises that the instincts of any animal species 
are so similar within the limits of that species 
— a circumstance which has not a little con- 
tributed to the engrafted-mechanism theory. 
But it is plain that like causes will be followed 
by like effects; and this should afford suf- 
ficient explanation. The bodily . mechanism, 
for example, of all the individuals of a species 
is alike; so again are their capabilities and 
the outcomes of their conscious intelligence — 
though this, indeed, is not the case with man, 
nor in some measure even with the highest 
animals ; and it is through this want of unifor- 

^ " Und cine so damonische Gewalt soUte durch etwas ausgeiibt 
werden konnen, was als ein dem inneren Wesen fremder Mechanismus 
dem Geiste aufgepfropft ist, oder gar durch eine bewusster Ueberlegung, 
welche doch stets nur im kahlen Egoismus stecken bleibt," &c. — 
Philosophy of the Unconscious, 3d ed., p. loi. 


mity that there is such a thing as individuality. 
The external conditions of all the individuals 
of a species are also tolerably similar, and 
when they differ essentially, the instincts are 
likewise different — ^a fact in support of which 
no examples are necessary. From like con- 
ditions of mind and body (and this includes 
like predispositions of brain and ganglia) and 
like exterior circumstances, like desires will 
follow as a necessary logical consequence. 
Again, from like desires and like inward and 
outward circumstances, a like choice of means 
— that is to say, like instincts — must ensue. 
These last two steps would not be conceded 
without restriction if the question were one 
involving conscious deliberation, but as these 
logical consequences are supposed to follow 
from the unconscious, which takes the right 
step unfailingly without vacillation or delay 
so long as the premises are similar, the en- 
suing desires and the instincts to adopt the 
means for their gratification will be similar 

Thus the view which we have taken con- 
cerning instinct explains the very last point 
which it may be thought worth while to 
bring forward in support of the opinions of 
our opponents. 

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I will conclude this chapter with the words 
of Schelling : " Thoughtful minds will hold 
the phenomena of animal instinct to belong 
to the most important of all phenomena, and 
to be the true touchstone of a durable philo- 

( »" ) 

iisxs vpoir yorr hartmann's posinoit m sbgard 

TO /jrST/NCT. 

CERTAIN how far the foregoing chapter is 
better left -without comment of any kind, I 
ertheless think that some of my readers 
f be helped by the following extracts from 
notes I took while translating, I will give 
m as they come, without throwing them into 
nected form. 

^on Hartmann defines instinct as action, 
le with a purpose, but without consciousness 

The building of her nest by a bird is an 
iinctive action ; it is done with a purpose, 
it is arbitrary to say that the bird has no 
iwledge of that purpose. Some hold that 
Is when they are building their nest know 
veil that they mean to bring up a family in 
IS a young married couple do when they 
id themselves a house. This is the conclu- 


sion which would be come to by a plain per- 
son on dL primd facie view of the facts, and Von 
Hartmann shows no reason for modifying it. 

A better definition of instinct would be that 
it is inherited knowledge in respect of certain 
facts, and of the most suitable manner in which 
to deal with them. 

Von Hartmann speaks of " a mechanism of 
brain or mind " contrived by nature, and again 
of " a psychical organisation," as though it were 
something distinct from a physical organisation. 

We can conceive of such a thing as mechan- 
ism of brain, for w« have seen brain and 
handled it; but until we have seen a mind 
and handled it, or at any rate been enabled to 
draw inferences which will warrant us in con- 
ceiving of it as a material substance apart from 
bodily substance, we cannot infer that it has an 
organisation apart from bodily organisation. 
Does Von Hartmann mean that we have two 
bodies — a body-body, and a soul-body ? 

He says that no one will call the action of 
the spider instinctive in voiding the fluids from 
its glands when they are too full. Why not ? 


He is continually personifying instinct ; thus 
he speaks of the " ends proposed to itself by 
the instinct," of " the blind unconscious pur- 
pose of the instinct," of "an unconscious pur- 
pose constraining the volition of the bird,*' of 
" each variation and modification of the instinct," 
as though instinct, purpose, and, later on, clair- 
voyance, were persons, and not words character- 
ising a certain class of actions. The ends are 
proposed to itself by the animal, not by the 
instinct. Nothing but mischief can come of 
a mode of expression which does not keep this 
clearly in view. 

It must not be supposed that the same cuckoo 
is in the habit of laying in the nests of several 
different species, and of changing the colour 
of her eggs according to that of the eggs of the 
bird in whose nest she lays. I have inquired 
from Mr. R. Bowdler Sharpe of the ornitho- 
logical department at the British Museum, who 
kindly gives it me as his opinion that though 
cuckoos do imitate the eggs of the species on . 
whom they foist their young ones, yet one 
cuckoo will probably lay in the nests of one 
species only, and will stick to that species for 
life. If so, the same race of cuckoos may 
impose upon the same species for generations 


together. The instinct will even thus remain 
a very wonderful one, but it is not at all incon- 
sistent with the theory put forward by Professor 
Hering and myself. 

Returning to the idea of psychical mechanism, 
he admits that " it is itself so obscure that 
we can hardly form any idea concerning it,"^ 
and then goes on to claim for it that it explains 
a great many other things. This must have 
been the passage which Mr. Sully had in view 
when he very justly wrote that Von Hartmann 
** dogmatically closes the field of physical inquiry, 
and takes refuge in a phantom which explains 
everything, simply because it is itself incapable 
of explanation." 

According to Von Hartmann^ the unpractised 
animal manifests its instinct as perfectly as the 
practised. This is not the case. The young 
animal exhibits marvellous proficiency, but it 
gains by experience. I have watched sparrows, 
which I can hardly doubt to be young ones, 
spend a whole month in trying to build their 
nest, and give it up in the end as hopeless. I 
have watched three such cases this spring in 

1 Page 155 of this vel. » Pp. 164, 165 of this vol. 


a tree not twenty feet from my own window 
and on a level with my eye, so that I have been 
able to see what was going on at all hours of 
the day. In each case the nest was made well 
and rapidly up to a certain point, and then 
got top-heavy and tumbled over, so that little 
was left on the tree : it was reconstructed and 
reconstructed over and over again, always with 
the same result, till at last in all three cases the 
birds gave up in despair. I believe the older 
and stronger birds secure the fixed and best 
sites, driving the younger birds to the trees, 
and that the art of building nests in trees is 
dying out among house-sparrows. 

He declares that instinct is not due to 
organisation so much as organisation to in- 
stinct.^ The fact is, that neither can claim 
precedence of or pre-eminence over the other. 
Instinct and organisation are only mind and 
body, or mind and matter ; and these are not 
two separable things, but one and inseparable, 
with, as it were, two sides, the one of which is 
a function of the other. There was never 
yet either matter without mind, however low, 
nor mind, however high, without a material 

* Page 155 of this voL 



body of some sort ; there can be no change in 
one without a corresponding change in the 
other ; neither came before the other ; neither 
can either cease to change or cease to be ; for 
"to be" is to continue changing, so that "to 
be" and '* to change" are one. 

Whence, he asks, comes the desire to gratify 
an instinct before experience of the pleasure 
that will ensue on gratification ? This is a 
pertinent question, but it is met by Professor 
Hering with the answer that this is due to 
memory — to the continuation in the germ of 
vibrations that were vibrating in the body of the 
parent, and which, when stimulated by vibra- 
tions of a suitable rhythm, become more and 
more powerful till they suffice to set the body 
in visible action. For my own part I only 
venture to maintain that it is due to memory, 
that is to say, to an enduring sense on the part 
of the germ of the action it took when in the 
persons of its ancestors, and of the gratification 
which ensued thereon. This meets Von Hart- 
mann s whole difficulty. 

The glacier is not snow. It is snow packed 
tight into a small compass, and has thus lost all 


trace of its original form. How incomplete, 
however, would be any theory of glacial action 
which left out of sight the origin of the glacier 
in snow ! Von Hartmann loses sight of the 
origin of instinctive in deliberative actions 
because the two classes of .action are now in 
many respects different. His philosophy of 
the unconscious fails to consider what is the 
normal process by means of which such common 
actions as we can watch, and whose history 
we can follow, have come to be done uncon- 

He says,^ " How inconceivable is the supposi- 
tion of a mechanism, &c., &c. ; how clear and 
simple, on the other hand, is the view that there 
is an unconscious purpose constraining the 
volition of the bird to the use of the fitting 
means." Does he mean that there is an actual 
thing — ^an unconscious purpose — something out- 
side the bird, as it were a man, which lays hold 
of the bird and makes it do this or that, as a 
master makes a servant do his bidding ? If so, 
he again personifies the purpose itself, and 
must therefore embody it, or be talking in a 
manner which plain people cannot understand. 

^ Page 151 of this voL 


If, on the other hand, he means "how simple is 
the view that the bird acts unconsciously," this 
is not more simple than supposing it to act 
consciously ; and what ground has he for sup- 
posing that the bird is unconscious ? It is as 
simple, and as much in accordance with the 
facts, to suppose that the bird feels the air to be 
colder, and knows that she must warm her eggs 
if she is to hatch them, as consciously as a 
mother knows that she must not expose her 
new-born infant to the cold. 

On page 154 of this book we find Von Hart- 
mann saying that if it is once granted that the 
normal and abnormal manifestations of instinct 
spring from a single source, then the objection 
that the modification is due to conscious know- 
ledge will be found to be a suicidal one later on, 
in so far as it is directed against instinct gene- 
rally. I understand him to mean that if we 
admit instinctive action^ and the modifications 
of that action which more nearly resemble 
results of reason, to be actions of the same 
ultimate kind differing in degree only, and if 
we thus attempt to reduce instinctive action to 
the prophetic strain arising from old experience, 
we shall be obliged to admit that the formation 


of the embryo is ultimately due to reflection — 
which he seems to think is a reductio ad absur- 
dum of the argument. 

Therefore, he concludes, if there is to be only 
one source, the source must be unconscious, 
and not conscious. We reply, that we do not 
see the absurdity of the position which we grant 
we have been driven to. We hold that the for- 
mation of the embryo is ultimately due to 
reflection and design. 

The writer of an article in the Times, April 
I, 1880, says that servants must be taught 
their calling before they can practise it ; but, in 
fact, they can only be taught their calling by 
practising it. So Von Hartmann says animals 
must feel the pleasure consequent on gratifi- 
cation of an instinct before they can be stimu- 
lated to act upon the instinct by a knowledge 
of the pleasure that will ensue. This sounds 
logical, but in practice a little performance and 
a little teaching — 3. little sense of pleasure and 
a little connection of that pleasure with this or 
that practice, — come up simultaneously from 
something that we cannot see, the two being so 
small and so much abreast, that we do not know 
which is first, performance or teaching; and, 

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again, action, or pleasure supposed as coming 
from the action. 

" Geistes-mechanismus " comes as near to 
" disposition of mind/' or, more shortly, *' dis- 
position," as so unsatisfactory a word can come 
to anything. Yet, if we translate it throughout 
by " disposition," we shall see how little we are 
being told. 

We find on page 177 that "all instinctive 
actions give us an impression of absolute security 
and infallibility;" that "the will is never weak 
or hesitating, as it is when inferences are 
being drawn consciously." *'We never," Von 
Hartmann continues, " find instinct making 
mistakes." Passing over the fact that instinct 
is again personified, the statement is still 
incorrect. Instinctive actions are certainly, as 
a general rule, performed with less uncertainty 
than deliberative ones ; this is explicable by the 
fact that they have been more often practised, 
and thus reduced more completely to a matter 
of routine ; but nothing is more certain than that 
animals acting under the guidance of inherited 
experience or instinct frequently make mistakes 
which with further practice they correct Von 


Hartmann has abundantly admitted that the 
manner of an instinctive action is often varied 
in correspondence with variation in external 
circumstances. It is impossible to see how this 
does not involve both possibility of error and 
the connection of instinct with deliberation at 
one and the same time. The fact is simply this 
— when an animal finds itself in a like position 
with that in which it has already often done a 
certain thing in the persons of its forefathers, it 
will do this thing well and easily : when it finds 
the position somewhat, but not unrecognisably, 
altered through change either in its own person 
or in the circumstances exterior to it, it will vary 
its action with greater or less ease according to 
the nature of the change in the position : when 
the position is gravely altered the animal either 
bungles or is completely thwarted. 

Not only does Von Hartmann suppose that 
instinct may, and does, involve knowledge 
antecedent to, and independent of, experience 
— an idea as contrary to the tendency of modem 
thought as that of spontaneous generation, with, 
which indeed it is identical though presented 
in another shape— but he implies by his frequent 
use of the word " unmittelbar " that a result can 


m ■ ■ %m *mm > 


come about without any cause whatever. So 
he says, " Um fur die unbewusster Erkenntniss, 
welche nicht durch sinnliche Wahrnehmung 
erworben, sondern als unmittelbar Besitzl' &c.^ 
Because he does not see where the experience 
can have been gained, he cuts the knot, and 
denies that there has been experience. We 
say, Look more attentively and you will discover 
the time and manner in which the experience 
was gained. 

Again, he continually assumes that animals 
low down in the scale of life cannot know their 
own business because they show no sign of know- 
ing ours. See his remarks on Saturnia pavonia 
minor (page 165), and elsewhere on cattle and 
gadflies. The question is pot what can they 
know, but what does their action prove to us 
that they do know. With each species of animal 
or plant there is one profession only, and it is 
hereditary. With us there are many profes- 
sions, and they are not hereditary ; so that they 
cannot become instinctive, as they would other- 
wise tend to do. 

He attempts ^ to draw a distinction between 
the causes that have produced the weapons 

1 See page 178 of this volume* • Page 160 of this vol. 


and working instruments of animals, on the one 
hand, and those that lead to the formation of 
hexagonal cells by bees, &c., on the other. No 
such distinction can be justly drawn. 

The ghost-stories which Von Hartmann ac- 
cepts will hardly be accepted by people of 
sound judgment. There is one well-marked 
distinctive feature between the knowledge 
manifested by animals when acting instinc- 
tively and the supposed knowledge of seers 
and clairvoyants. In the first case, the animal 
never exhibits knowledge except upon matters 
concerning which its race has been conversant 
for generations ; in the second, the seer is 
supposed to do so. In the first case, a new 
feature is invariably attended with disturbance 
of the performance and the awakening of con- 
sciousness and deliberation, unless the new 
matter is too small in proportion to the remain- 
ing features of the case to attract attention, or 
unless, though really new, it appears so similar 
to an old feature as to be at first mistaken for 
it; with the second, it is not even professed 
that the seer s ancestors have had long experi- 
ence upon the matter concerning which the 
seer is supposed to have special insight, and I 


can imagine no more powerful d priori argu- 
ment against a belief in such stories. 

Close upon the end of his chapter Von Hart- 
mann touches upon the one matter which re- 
quires consideration. He refers the similarity 
of instinct that is observable among all species 
to the fact that like causes produce like effects ; 
and I gather, though he does not expressly say 
so, that he considers similarity of instinct in 
successive generations to be referable to the same 
cause as similarity of instinct between all the 
contemporary members of a species. He thus 
raises the one objection against referring the 
phenomena of heredity to memory which I 
think need be gone into with any fulness. I 
will, however, reserve this matter for my con- 
cluding chapters. 

Von Hartmann concludes his chapter with a 
quotation from Schelling, to the effect that the 
phenomena of animal instinct are the true touch- 
stone of a durable philosophy ; by which I sup- 
pose it is intended to say that if a system or 
theory deals satisfactorily with animal instinct, 
it will stand, but not otherwise. I can wish 
nothing better than that the philosophy of the 
unconscious advanced by Von Hartmann be 
tested by this standard. 

( 226 ) 




The true theory of unconscious action, then, is 
that of Professor Hering, from whose lecture 
it is no strained conclusion to gather that he 
holds the action of all living beings, from the 
moment of their conception to that of their 
fullest development, to be founded in volition 
and design, though these have been so long 
lost sight of that the work is now carried on, 
as it were, departmentally and in due course 
according to an official routine which can 
hardly now be departed from. 

This involves the older " Darwinism " and 
the theory of Lamarck, according to which the 
modification of living forms has been effected 
mainly through the needs of the living forms 
themselves, which vary with varying condi- 
tions, the survival of the fittest (which, as 
I see Mr. H. B. Baildon has just said, "some- 
times comes to mean merely the survival of the 
survivors " ^) being taken almost as a matter of 

1 The Spirit of Nature. J. A. Churchill & Co., 1880, p. 39. 



course. According to this view of evolution, 
there is a remarkable analogy between the 
development of living organs or tools and 
that of those organs or tools external to the 
body which has been so rapid during the last 
few thousand years. 

Animals and plants, according to Professor 
Hering, are guided throughout their develop- 
ment, and preserve the due order in each step 
which they take, through memory of the course 
they took on past occasions when in the persons 
of their ancestors. I am afraid I have already 
too often said that if this memory remains for 
long periods together latent and without effect, 
it is because the undulations of the molecular 
substance of the body which are its supposed 
explanation are during these periods too feeble 
to generate action, until they are augmented 
in force through an accession of suitable 
undulations issuing from exterior objects ; or, 
in other words, until recollection is stimulated 
by a return of the associated ideas. On this 
the internal agitation becomes so much en- 
hanced, that equilibrium is visibly disturbed, 
and the action ensues which is proper to the 
vibration of the particular substance under the 
particular conditions. This, at least, is what 
I suppose Professor Hering to intend. 

2 2 8 UN CO NSC 10 US MEM OR V. 

Leaving the explanation of memory on 
one side, and confining ourselves to the fact 
of memory only, a caterpillar on being just 
hatched is supposed, according to this theory, 
to lose its memory of the time it was in the 
eggy and to be stimulated by an intense but 
unconscious recollection of the action taken by 
its ancestors when they were first hatched. It 
is guided in the course it takes by the expe- 
rience it can thus command. Each step it 
takes recalls a new recollection, and thus it 
goes through its development as a performer 
performs a piece of music, each bar leading his 
recollection to the bar that should next follow. 

In ** Life and Habit" will be found examples 
of the manner in which this view solves a 
number of difficulties for the explanation of 
which the leading men of science express 
themselves at a loss. The following from 
Professor Huxley's recent work upon the 
crayfish may serve for an example. Professor 
Huxley writes : — 

"It is a widely received notion that the energies of 
living matter have a tendency to decline and finally dis- 
appear, and that the death of the body as a whole is a 
necessary correlate of its life. That all living beings 
sooner or later perish needs no demonstration, but it would 
be difficult to find satisfactory grounds for the belief that 
they needs must do sa The analogy of a machine, that 

, 4.<<iij. wmmm 

"J*"^' ^ 


sooner or later must be brought to a standstill by the wear 
and tear of its parts, does not hold, inasmuch as the 
animal mechanism is continually renewed and repaired ; and 
though it is true that individual components of the body 
are constantly dying, yet their places are taken by vigorous 
successors. A city remains notwithstanding the constant 
death-rate of its inhabitants ; and such an organism as a cray- 
fish is only a corporate unity, made up of innumerable par- 
tially independent individualities." — The Crayfish^ p. 127. 

Surely the theory which I have indicated 
above makes the reason plain why no organism 
can permanently outlive its experience of past 
lives. The death of such a body corporate as 
the crayfish is due to the social condition be- 
coming more complex than there is memory 
of past experience to deal with. Hence social 
disruption, insubordination, and decay. The 
crayfish dies as a state dies, and all states that 
we have heard of die sooner or later. There 
are some savages who have not yet arrived at 
the conception that death is the necessary end 
of all living beings, and who consider even the 
gentlest death from old age as violent and 
abnormal ; so Professor Huxley seems to find 
a difficulty in seeing that though a city com- 
monly outlives many generations of its citizens, 
yet cities and states are in the end no less 
mortal than individuals. " The city," he says, 
" remains." Yes, but not for ever. When Pro- 


fessor Huxley can find a city that will last for 
ever, he may wonder that a crayfish does not 
or ever. 

have already here and elsewhere said all 
I can yet bring forward in support of 
issor Hering's theory; it now remains for 
:o meet the most troublesome objection 
that I have been able to think of — an 
:tion which I had before me when I wrote 
e and Habit," but which then as now 
ilieve to be unsound. Seeing, however, 
have pointed out at the end of the 
iding chapter, that Von Hartmann has 
led upon it, and being aware that a plau- 
case can be made out for it, I will state it 
refute it here. When I say refute it, I do 
mean that I shall have done with it — for it 
ain that it opens up a vaster question in 
elations between the so-called organic and 
janic worlds — ^but that I will refute the 
osition that it any way militates against 
=ssor Hering's theory. 
hy, it may be asked, should we go out of 
way to invent unconscious memory — the 
ence of which must at the best remain an 
ence' — when the observed fact that like 

ive put these worfa into the mouth of my supposed objector, 
all put othei^ like them, because they are characteristic ; but 
■ can become so well known as to escape being an inference. 


antecedents are invariably followed by like con- 
sequents should be sufficient for our purpose ? 
Why should the fact that a given kind of chry- 
salis in a given condition will always become a 
butterfly within a certain time be connected 
with memory, when it is not pretended that 
memory has anything to do with the invariable- 
ness with which oxygen and hydrogen when 
mixed in certain proportions make water ? 

We assume confidently that if a drop of water 
were decomposed into its component parts, and 
if these were brought together again, and again 
decomposed and again brought together any 
number of times over, the results would be 
invariably the same, whether decomposition or 
combination, yet no one will refer the invari- 
ableness of the action cfuring each repetition, 
to recollection by the gaseous molecules of the 
course taken when the process was last repeated. 
On the contrary, we are assured that molecules 
in some distant part of the world, which had 
never entered into such and such a known 
combination themselves, nor held concert with 
other molecules that had been so combined, 
and which, therefore, could have had no experi- 
ence and no memory, would none the less act 
upon one another in that one way in which 
other like combinations of atoms have acted 


under like circumstances, as readily as though 
they had been combined and separated and 
recombined again a hundred or a hundred 
thousand times. It is this assumption, tacitly 
made by every man, beast, and plant in the uni- 
verse, throughout all time and in every action 
of their lives, that has made any action possible, 
lying, as it does, at the root of all experience. 

As we admit of no doubt concerning the 
main result, so we do not suppose an alter- 
native to lie before any atom of any molecule 
at any moment during the process of their com- 
bination. This process is, in all probability, an 
exceedingly complicated one, involving a mul^ 
titude of actions and subordinate processes, 
which follow one upon the other, and each one 
of which has a beginning, a middle, and an 
end, though they all come to pass in what 
appears to be an instant of time. Yet at no 
point do we conceive of any atom as swerving 
ever such a little to right or left of a determined 
course, but invest each one of them with so 
much of the divine attributes as that with it 
there shall be no variableness, neither shadow 
of turning. 

We attribute this regularity of action to what 
we call the necessity of things, as determined 
by the nature of the atoms and the circum- 

- ^"^^' 


Stances in which they are placed. We say 
that only one proximate result can ever arise 
from any given combination. If, then, so great 
uniformity of action as nothing can exceed is 
manifested by atoms to which no one will im- 
pute memory, why this desire for memory, as 
though it were the only way of accounting for 
regularity of action in living beings ? Same- 
ness of action may be seen abundantly where 
there is no room for anything that we can con- 
sistently call memory. In these cases we say 
that it is due to sameness of substance in same 

The most cursory reflection upon our actions 
will show us that it is no more possible for 
living action to have more than one set of 
proximate consequents at any given time than 
for oxygen and hydrogen when mixed in the 
proportions proper for the formation of water. 
Why, then, not recognise this fact, and ascribe 
repeated similarity of living action to the repro- 
duction of the necessary antecedents, with no 
more sense of connection between the steps 
in the action, or memory of similar action taken 
before, than we suppose on the part of oxygen 
and hydrogen molecules between the several 
occasions on which they may have been dis- 
united and reunited ? 


A boy catches the measles not because he 
remembers having caught them in the persons 
of his father and mother, but because he is a fit 
soil for a certain kind of seed to grow upon. 
In like manner he should be said to grow his 
nose because he is a fit combination for a nose 

to spring from. Dr. X 's father died of 

angina pectoris at the age of forty-nine ; so did 

Dr. X . Can it be pretended that Dr. 

X remembered having died of angina 

pectoris at the age of forty-nine when in the 
person of his father, and accordingly, when he 
came to be forty-nine years old himself, died 

also } For this to hold, Dr. X 's father 

must have begotten him after he was dead ; for 
the son could not remember the father's death 
before it happened. 

As for the diseases of old age, so very com- 
monly inherited, they are developed for the 
most part not only long after the average age 
of reproduction, but at a time when no appreci- 
able amount of memory of any previous exist- 
ence can remain ; for a man will not have many 
male ancestors who become parents at over sixty 
years old, nor female ancestors who did so at 
over forty. By our own showing, therefore, 
recollection can have nothing to do with the 
matter. Yet who can doubt that gout is due 


to inheritance as much as eyes and noses ? In 
what respects do the two things differ so that 
we should refer the inheritance of eyes and 
noses to memory, while denying any connec- 
tion between memory and gout ? We may 
have a ghost of a pretence for saying that a 
man grew a nose by rote, or even that he 
catches the measles or whooping-cough by rote 
during his boyhood ; but do we mean to say 
that he develops the gout by rote in his old age 
if he comes of a gouty family ? If, then, rote 
and red-tape have nothing to do with the one, 
why should they with the other ? 

Remember also the cases in which aged 
females develop male characteristics. Here are 
growths, often of not inconsiderable extent, 
which make their appeamnce during the decay 
of the body, and grow with greater and greater 
vigour in the extreme of old age, and even for 
days after death itself. It can hardly be 
doubted that an especial tendency to develop 
these characteristics runs as an inheritance in 
certain families ; here then is perhaps the best 
case that can be found of a development strictly 
inherited, but having clearly nothing whatever 
to do with memory. Why should not all de- 
velopment stand upon the same footing } 

A friend who had been arguing with me 


for some time as above, concluded with the 
following words : — 

"If you cannot be content with the similar 
action of similar substances (living or non-living) 
under similar circumstances — if you cannot 
accept this as an ultimate fact, but consider it 
necessary to connect repetition of similar action 
with memory before you can rest in it and be 
thankful — ^be consistent, and introduce this 
memory which you find so necessary into the 
inorganic world also. Either say that a chry- 
salis becomes a butterfly because it is the thing 
that it is, and, being that kind of thing, must 
act in such and such a manner and in such a 
manner only, so that the act of one generation 
has no more to do with the act of the next than 
the fact of cream being churned into butter in 
a dairy one day has to do with other cream 
being churnable into butter in the following week 
— either say this, or else develop some mental 
condition — which I have no doubt you will be 
very well able to do if you feel the want of it — in 
which you can make out a case for saying that 
oxygen and hydrogen on being brought together, 
and cream on being churned, are in some way 
acquainted with, and mindful of, action taken by 
other cream and other oxygen and hydrogen on 
past occasions." 

I WJ V V* 'l^ 


I felt inclined to reply that my friend need 
not twit me with being able to develop a mental 
organism if I felt the need of it, for his own 
ingenious attack on my position, and indeed 
every action of his life was but an example of 
this omnipresent principle. 

When he was gone, however, I thought over 
what he had been saying. I endeavoured to 
see how far I could get on without volition and 
memory, and reasoned as follows : — A repe- 
tition of like antecedents will be certainly 
followed by a repetition of like consequents, 
whether the agents be men and women or 
chemical substances. "If there be two 
cowards perfectly similar in every respect, and 
if they be subjected in a perfectly similar way 
to two terrifying agents, which are them- 
selves perfectly similar, there are few who will 
not expect a perfect similarity in the running 
away, even though ten thousand years inter- 
vene between the original combination and its 
repetition." ^ Here certainly there is no coming 
into play of memory, more than in the pan 
of cream on two successive churning days, yet 
the action is similar. 

A clerk in an office has an hour in the middle 
of the day for dinner. About half-past twelve 

^ Erewhon, chap, xxiii. 


he begins to feel hungry; at one he takes 
down his hat and leaves the office. He does 
not yet know the neighbourhood, and on getting 
down into the street asks a policeman at the 
corner which is the best eating-house within 
easy distance. The policeman tells him of three 
houses, one of which is a little farther off than 
the other two, but is cheapen Money being a 
greater object to him than time, the clerk 
decides on going to the cheaper house. He 
goes, is satisfied, and returns. 

Next day he wants his dinner at the same 
hour, and — it will be said — remembering his 
satisfaction of yesterday, will go to the same 
place as before. But what has his memory to 
do with it ? Suppose him to have entirely for- 
gotten all the circumstances of the preceding 
day from the moment of his beginning to feel 
hungry onward, though in other respects sound 
in mind and body, and unchanged generally. 
At half-past twelve he would begin to be 
hungry ; but his beginning to be hungry 
cannot be connected with his remembering 
having begun to be hungry yesterday. He 
would begin to be hungry just as much 
whether he remembered or no. At one o'clock 
he again takes down his hat and leaves the 
office, not because he remembers having done 

"_ !■ ■ 


so yesterday, but because he wants his hat to 
go out with. Being again in the street, and 
again ignorant of the neighbourhood (for he 
remembers nothing of yesterday), he sees the 
same poUceman at the corner of the street, and 
asks him the same question as before; the 
policeman gives him the same answer, and 
money being still an object to him, the cheapest 
eating-house is again selected; he goes there, 
finds the same menu^ makes the same choice 
for the same reasons, eats, is satisfied, and 

What similarity of action can be greater than 
this, and at the same time more incontrover- 
tible ? But it has nothing to do with memory ; 
on the contrary, it is just because the clerk has 
no memory that, his action of the second day so 
exactly resembles that of the first. As long as 
he has no power of recollecting, he will day 
after day repeat the same actions in exactly the 
same way, until some external circumstances, 
such as his being sent away, modify the situation. 
Till this or some other modification occurs, he 
will day after day go down into the street with- 
out knowing where to go ; day after day he 
will see the same policeman at the corner 
of the same street, and (for we may as well 
suppose that the policeman has no memory 


too) he will ask and be answered, and ask and 
be answered, till he and the policeman die of 
old age. This similarity of action is plainly 
due to that — whatever it is — which ensures 
that like persons or things when placed 
in like circumstances shall behave in like 

Allow the clerk ever such a little memory, 
and the similarity of action will disappear ; for 
the fact of remembering what happened to him 
on the first day he went out in search of 
dinner will be a modification in him in regard 
to his then condition when he next goes out to 
get his dinner. He had no such memory on 
the first day, and he has upon the second. 
Some modification of action must ensue upon 
this modification of the actor, and this is 
immediately observable. He wants his dinner, 
indeed, goes down into the street, and sees the 
policeman as yesterday, but he does not ask the 
policeman; he remembers what the police- 
man told him and what he did, and therefore 
goes straight to the eating-house without 
wasting time : nor does he dine off the same 
dish two days running, for he remembers what 
he had yesterday and likes variety. If, then, 
similarity of action is rather hindered than pro- 
moted by memory, why introduce it into such 


cases as the repetition of the embryonic pro- 
cesses by successive generations? The em- 
bryos of a well-fixed breed, such as the goose, 
are almost as much alike as water is to water, 
and by consequence one goose comes to be 
almost as like another as water to water. Why 
should it not be supposed to becon^e so upon 
the same grounds — namely, that it is made of 
the same stuffs, and plit together in like pro- 
portions in the same manner ? 


The one faith on which all normal living 
beings consciously or unconsciously act, is that 
like antecedents will be followed by like con- 
sequents. This is the one true and catholic 
faith, undemonstrable, but except a living being 
believe which, without doubt it shall perish 
everlastingly. In the assurance of this all 
action is taken. 

But if this fundamental article is admitted, 
and it cannot be gainsaid, it follows that if 
ever a complete cycle were formed, so that 
the whole universe of one instant were to 
repeat itself absolutely in a subsequent one, 
no matter after what interval of time, then 
the course of the events between these two 
moments would go on repeating itself for ever 
and ever afterwards in due order, down to the 
minutest detail, in an endless series of cycles 
like a circulating decimal. For the universe 
comprises everything; there could therefore 

■p»i—"»ggT*^eg— qwwwr^ jgiu-j ggy"^ ■» *^j*-j * > .jja s .. .-j-i. j-> 

OI\r CYCLES. 243 


be no disturbance from without. Once a cycle, 
always a cycle. 

Let us suppose the earth, of given weight, 
moving with given momentum in a given path, 
and under given conditions in every respect, to 
find itself at any one time conditioned in all 
these respects as it was conditioned at some 
past moment; then it must move exactly in 
the same path as the one it took when at the 
beginning of the cycle it has just completed, 
and must therefore in the course of time fulfil 
a second cycle, and ' therefore a third, and so 
'on for ever and ever, with no more chance of 
escape than a circulating decimal has, if the cir- 
cumstances have been reproduced with perfect 

We see something very like this actually 
happen in the yearly revolutions of the planets 
round the sun. But the relations between, we 
will say, the earth and the sun are not repro- 
duced absolutely. These relations deal only 
• with a small part of the universe, and even in 
this small part the relation of the parts inter 
se has never yet been reproduced with the per- 
fection of accuracy necessary for our argument. 
They are liable, moreover, to disturbance from 
events which may or may not actually occur, 
(as, for example, our being struck by a comet, or 


the sun's coming within a certain distance of 
another sun), but of which, if they do occur, no 
one can foresee the effects. Nevertheless the 
conditions have been so nearly repeated that 
there is no appreciable difference in the rela- 
tions between the earth and sun on one New 
Year's Day and on another, nor is there reason 
for expecting such change within any reason- 
able time. 

If there is to be an eternal series of cycles 
involving the whole universe, it is plain that 
not one single atom must be excluded. !pxclude 
a single molecule of hydrogen from the ring, 
or vary the relative positions of two molecules 
only, and the charm is broken ; an element of 
disturbance has been introduced, of which the 
utmost that can be said is that it may not 
prevent the ensuing of a long series of very 
nearly perfect cycles before similarity in re- 
currence is destroyed, but which must inevit- 
ably prevent absolute identity of repetition. 
The movement of the series becomes no longer 
a cycle, but spiral, and convergent or diver- 
gent at a greater or less rate according to cir- 
cumstances. We cannot conceive of all the 
atoms in the universe standing twice over in: 
absolutely the same relation each one of them 
to every other. There are too many of them 


and they are too much mixed ; but, as has been 
just said, in the planets and their satellites we 
do see large groups of atoms whose movements 
recur with some approach to precision. The 
same holds good also with certain comets and 
with the sun himself. The result is that our 
days and nights and seasons follow one another 
with nearly perfect regularity from year to year, 
and have done so for as long time as we know 
anything for certain. A vast preponderance 
of all the action that takes place around us is 
cycular action. 

Within the great cycle of the planetary revo- 
lution of our own earth, and as a consequence 
thereof, we have the minor cycle of the pheno- 
mena of the seasons; these generate atmospheric 
cycles. Water is evaporated from the ocean 
and conveyed to mountain ranges, where it is 
cooled, and whence it returns again to the sea. 
This cycle of events is being repeated again and 
again with little appreciable variation. The 
tides and winds in certain latitudes go round 
and round the world with what amounts to 
continuous regularity. There are storms of wind 
and rain called cyclones. In the case of these, 
the cycle is not very complete, the movement, 
therefore, is spiral, and the tendency to recur is 
comparatively soon lost. It is a common say- 



ing that history repeats itself, so that anarchy 
will lead to despotism and despotism to anarchy; 
every nation can point to instances of men's 
minds having gone round and round so nearly 
in a perfect cycle that many revolutions have 
occurred before the cessation of a tendency to 
recur. Lastly, in the generation of plants and 
animals we have, perhaps, the most striking 
and common example of the inevitable tendency 
of all action to repeat itself when it has once 
proximately done so. Let only one living being 
have once succeeded in producing a being like 
itself, and thus have returned, so to speak, 
upon itself, and a series of generations must 
follow of necessity, unless some matter interfere 
which, had no part in the original combination, 
and, as it may happen, kill the first reproductive 
creature or all its descendants within a few 
generations. If no such mishap occurs as this, 
and if the recurrence of the conditions is suf- 
ficiently perfect, a series of generations follows 
with as much certainty as a series of seasons 
follows upon the cycle of the relations between 
the earth and sun. Let the first periodically 
recurring substance — we will say A — ^be able 
to recur or reproduce itself, not once only, but 
many times over, as A\ A^ &c. ; let A also 
have consciousness and a sense of self-interest, 

^'J* W^ili WIJ- 



which qualities must, ex hypotkesiy be reproduced 
in each one of its offspring ; let these get placed 
in circumstances which differ sufficiently to 
destroy the cycle in theory without doing so 
practically — that is to say, to reduce the rotation 
to a spiral, but to a spiral with so little deviation 
from perfect cycularity as for each revolution to 
appear practically a cycle, though after many 
revolutions the deviation becomes perceptible ; 
then some such differentiations of animal and 
vegetable life as we actually see follow as 
matters of course. A^ and A^ have a sense of 
self-interest as A had, but they are not precisely 
in circumstances similar to A's, nor, it may be, 
to each other's ; they will therefore act some- 
what .differently, and every living being is 
modified by a change of action. Having be- 
come modified, they follow the spirit of A*s 
action more essentially in begetting a creature 
like themselves than in begetting one like A ; 
for the essence of A's act was not the reproduc- 
tion of A, but the reproduction of a creature like 
the one from which it sprung — that is to say, 
a creature bearing traces in its body of the 
main influences that have worked upon its 

Within the cycle of reproduction there are 
cycles upon cycles in the life of each individual, 


whether animal or plant. Observe the action 
of our lungs and heart, how regular it is, and 
how a cycle having been once established, it is 
repeated many millions of times in an individual 
of average health and longevity. Remember 
also that it is this periodicity — this inevitable 
tendency of all atoms in combination to repeat 
any combination which they have once repeated, 
unless forcibly prevented from doing so — which 
alone renders nine-tenths of our mechanical 
inventions of practical use to us. There is no 
internal periodicity about a hammer or a saw, 
but there is in the steam-engine or watermill 
when once set in motion. The actions of these 
machines recur in a regular series, at regular 
intervals, with the unerringness of circulating 

When we bear in mind, then, the omni- 
presence of this tendency in the world around 
us, the absolute freedom from exception which 
attends its action, the manner in which it holds 
equally good upon the vastest and the smallest 
scale, and the completeness of its accord with 
our ideas of what must inevitably happen when 
a like combination is placed in circumstances 
like those in which it was placed before — when 
we bear in mind all this, is it possible not to 
connect the facts together, and to refer cycles 


of living generations to the same unalterable- 
ness in the action of like matter under like cir- 
cumstances which makes Jupiter and Saturn 
revolve round the sun, or the piston of a steam- 
engine move up and down as long as the steam 
. acts upon it ? 

But who will attribute memory to the hands 
of a clock, to a piston-rod, to air or water in 
a storm or in course of evaporation, to the earth 
and planets in their circuits round the sun, or to 
the atoms of the universe, if they too be moving 
in a cycle vaster than we can take account of ?^ 
And if not, why introduce it into the embryonic 
development of living beings, when there is hot 
a particle of evidence in support of its actual 
presence, when regularity of action can be en- 
sured just as well without it as with it, and 
when at the best it is considered as existing 
under circumstances which it baffles us to con- 
ceive, inasmuch as it is supposed to be exercised 
without any conscious recollection ? Surely a 
memory which is exercised without any con- 
sciousness of recollecting is only a periphrasis 
for the absence of any memory at all. 

^ It must be remembered that this passage is put as if in the mouth 
of an objector. 

( 25° ) 




To meet the objections in the two foregoing 
chapters, I need do little more than show that 
the fact of certain often inherited diseases and 
developments, whether of youth or old age, 
being obviously not due to a memory on the 
part of offspring of like diseases and develop- 
ments in the parents, does not militate against 
supposing that embryonic and youthful develop- 
ment generally is due to memory. 

This is the main part of the objection ; the 
rest resolves itself into an assertion that there 
is no evidence in support of instinct and em- 
bryonic development being due to memory, 
and a contention that the necessity of each 
particular moment in each particular case is 
sufficient to account for the facts without the 
introduction of memory. 

I will deal with these two last points briefly 
first. As regards the evidence in support of 
the theory that instinct and growth are due to 



a rapid unconscious memory of past experiences 
and developments in the persons of the ances- 
tors of the living form in which they appear, I 
must refer my readers to '* Life and Habit," 
and to the translation of Professor Hering's 
lecture given in this volume. I will only re- 
peat here that a chrysalis, we will say, is 
as much one and the same person with the 
chrysalis of its preceding generation, as this 
last is one and the same person with the ^^^ 
or caterpillar from which it sprang. You can- 
not deny personal identity between two succes- 
sive generations without sooner or later denying 
it during the successive stages in the single 
life of what we call one individual ; nor can 
you admit personal identity through the stages 
of a long and varied life (embryonic and post- 
natal) without admitting it to endure through 
an endless series of generations. 

The personal identity of successive genera- 
tions being admitted, the possibility of the 
second of two generations remembering what 
happened to it in the first is obvious. The 
a priori, objection, therefore, is removed, and 
the question becomes one of fact — does the 
ofifspring act as if it remembered ? 

The answer to this question is not only that 
it does so act, but that it is not possible to 


account for either its development or its early 
instinctive actions upon any other hypothesis 
than that of its remembering, and remembering 
exceedingly well. 

The only alternative is to declare with Von 
Hartmann that a living being may display a 
vast and varied information concerning all 

manner of details, and be able to perform most 


intricate operations, independently otv^experi- 
ence and practice. Once admit knowleo^^ *^" 
dependent of experience, and farewell to s&b^^ 
sense and reason from that moment. \ 

Firstly, then, we show that offspring has hac 
every facility for remembering ; secondly^hat* 
it shows every appearance of having remenP^ 
bered ; thirdly, that no other hypothesis ex- 
cept memory can be brought forward, so as to 
account for the phenomena of instinct and 
heredity generally, which is not easily reducible 
to an absurdity. Beyond this we do not care 
to go, and must allow those to differ from us 
who require further evidence. 

As regards the argument that the necessity 
of each moment will account for likeness of 
result, without there being any need for intro- 
ducing memory, I admit that likeness of con- 
sequents is due to likeness of antecedents, and 
I grant this will hold as good with embryos 




tm. ■•■ji -^wii ^^v^^^ U «j • 



as with oxygen and hydrogen gas ; what will 
cover the one will cover the other, for the writs 
of the laws common to all matter run within the 
womb as freely as elsewhere; but admitting 
that there are combinations into which living 
beings enter with a faculty called memory which 
has its effect upon their conduct, and admitting 
that such combinations are from time to time 
repeated (as we observe in the case of a prac- 
tised performer playing a piece of music which 
he has committed to memory), then I maintain 
that though, indeed, the likeness of one per- 
formance to its immediate predecessor is due 
to likeness of the combinations immediately 
preceding the two performances, yet memory 
plays so important a part in both these combi- 
nations as to make it a distinguishing feature 
in them, arid therefore proper to be insisted 
upon. We do not, for example, say that Herr 
Joachim played such and such a sonata without 
the music, because he was such and such an 
arrangement of matter in such and such cir- 
cumstances, resembling those under which he 
played without music on some past occasion. 
This goes without saying ; we say only that he 
played the music by heart or by memory, as 
he had often played it before. 

To the objector that a caterpillar becomes a 


chrysalis not because it remembers and takes 
the action taken by its fathers and mothers in 
due course before it, but because when matter 
is in such a physical and mental state as to be 
called caterpillar, it must perforce assume pre- 
sently such another physical and mental state 
as to be called chrysalis, and that therefore there 
is no memory in the case — to this objector I 
rejoin that the offspring caterpillar would not 
have become so like the parent as to make the 
next or chrysalis stage a matter of necessity, 
unless both parent and offspring had been 
influenced by something that we usually call 
memory. For it is this very possession of a 
common memory which has guided the off- 
spring into the path taken by, and hence to a 
virtually same condition with, the parent, and 
which guided the parent in its turn to a state 
virtually identical with a corresponding state in 
the existence of its own parent. To memory, 
therefore, the most prominent place in the 
transaction is assigned rightly. 

To deny that will guided by memory has 
anything to do with the development of em- 
bryos seems like denying that a desire to 
obstruct has anything to do with the recent 
conduct of certain members in the House of 
Commons. What should we think of one who 


said that the action of these gentlemen had 
nothinor to do with a desire to embarrass the 
Government, but was simply the necessary- 
outcome of the chemical and mechanical forces 
at work, which being such and such, the action 
which we see is inevitable, and has there- 
fore nothing to do with wilful obstruction ? 
We should answer that there was doubtless a 
great deal of chemical and mechanical action 
in the matter ; perhaps, for aught we knew or 
cared, it was all chemical and mechanical ; but 
if so, then a desire to obstruct parliamentary 
business is involved in certain kinds of chemical 
and mechanical action, and that the kinds in- 
volving this had preceded the recent proceed- 
ings of the members in question. If asked to 
prove this, we can get no further than that such 
action as has been taken has never yet been 
seen except as following after and in conse- 
quence of a desire to obstruct ; that this is 
our nomenclature, and that we can no more 
be expected to change it than to change our 
mother tongue at the bidding of a foreigner. 

A little reflection will convince the reader 
that he will be unable to deny will and memory 
to the embryo without at the same time deny- 
ing their existence everywhere, and maintain- 
ing that they have no place in the acquisition 

256 . UNCO NSC 10 US MEMOR Y. 

of a habit, nor indeed in any human action. He 
will feel that the actions, and the relation of one 
action to another which he observes in embryos 
is such as is never seen except in association 
with and as a consequence of will and memory. 
He will therefore say that it is due to will and 
memory. To say that these are the necessary 
outcome of certain antecedents is not to destroy 
them : granted that they are — a man does not 
cease to be a man when we reflect that he has 
had a father and mother, nor do will and 
memory cease to be will and memory on the 
ground that they cannot come causeless. They 
are manifest minute by minute to the percep- 
tion of all sane people, and this tribunal, though 
not infallible, is nevertheless our ultimate court 
of appeal — the final arbitrator in all disputed 

We must remember that there is no action, 
however original or peculiar, which is not in 
respect of far the greater number of it^ details 
founded upon memory. If a desperate man 
blows his brains out — an action which he can do 
once in a lifetime only, and which none of his 
ancestors can have done before leaving offspring 
— still nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths 
of the movements necessary to achieve his end 
consist of habitual movements — movements, that 


is to say, which were once difficult, but which 
have been practised and practised by the help 
of memory until they are now performed auto- 
matically. We can no more have an action 
than a creative effort of the imagination cut off 
from memory. Ideas and actions seem almost 
to resemble matter and force in respect of the 
impossibility of originating or destroying them ; 
nearly all that are, are memories of other ideas 
and actions, transmitted but not created, dis- 
appearing but not perishing. 

It appears, then, that when in Chapter X. 
we supposed the clerk who wanted his dinner 
to forget on a second day the action he had 
taken the day before, we still, without perhaps 
perceiving it, supposed him to be guided by 
memory in all the details of his action, such as 
his taking down his hat and going out into 
the street. We could not, indeed, deprive him 
of all memory without absolutely paralysing 
his action. 

Nevertheless new ideas, new faiths, and new 
actions do in the course of time come about, 
the living expressions of which we may see in 
the new forms of life which from time to time 
have arisen and are still arising, and in the 
increase of our own knowledge and mechanical 
inventions. But it is only a very little new that 



IS added at a time, and that little is generally 
due to the desire to attain an end which cannot 
be attained by any of the means for which there 
exists a perceived precedent in the memory. 
When this is the case, either the memory is 
further ransacked for any forgotten shreds of 
details a combination of which may serve the 
desired purpose ; or action is taken in the 
dark, which sometimes succeeds and becomes 
a fertile source of further combinations ; or we 
are brought to a dead stop. All action is ran- 
dom in respect of any of the minute actions 
which compose it that are not done in conse- 
quence of memory, real or supposed. So that 
random, or action taken in the dark, or illusion, 
lies at the very root of progress. 

I will now consider the objection that the 
phenomena of instinct and embryonic develop- 
ment ought not to be ascribed to memory, inas- 
much as certain other phenomena of heredity, 
such as gout, cannot be ascribed to it. 

Those who object in this way forget that 
our actions fall into two main classes : those 
which we have often repeated before by means 
of a regular series of subordinate actions begin- 
ning and ending at a certain tolerably well- 
defined point — as when Herr Joachim plays a 
sonata in public, or when we dress or undress 


ourselves ; and actions the details of which are 
indeed guided by memory, but which in their 
general scope and purpose are new — as when 
we are being married or presented at court. 

At each point in any action of the first of the 
two kinds above referred to there is a memory 
(conscious or unconscious according to the less 
or greater number of times the action has been 
repeated), not only of the steps in the present 
and previous performances which have led up 
to the particular point that may be selected, 
but also of the particular point itself; there is, 
therefore, at each point in a habitual perfor- 
mance a memory at once of like antecedents 
and of a like present. 

If the memory, whether of the antecedent or 
the present, were absolutely perfect ; if the vibra- 
tion (according to Professor Hering) on each 
repetition existed in its full original strength 
and without having been interfered with by any 
other vibration ; and if, again, the new wave 
running into it from exterior objects on each 
repetition of the action were absolutely identi- 
cal in character with the wave that ran in upon 
the last occasion, then there would be no change 
in the action and no modification or improve- 
ment could take place. For though indeed the 
latest performance would always have one me- 


mory more than the latest but one to guide 
it, yet the memories being identical, it would 
not matter how many or how few they were. 

On any repetition, however, the circumstances, 
external or internal, or both, never are absolutely 
identical : there is some slight variation in each 
individual case, and some part of this variation 
is remembered, with approbation or disapproba- 
tion as the case may be. 

The fact, therefore, that on each repetition 
of the action there is one memory more than 
on the last but one, and that this memory is 
slightly different from its predecessor, is seen 
to be an inherent and, ex hypothesi, necessarily 
disturbing factor in all habitual action — and the 
life of an organism should be regarded as the 
habitual action of a single individual, namely, 
of the organism itself, and of its ancestors. 
This is the key to accumulation of improve- 
ment, whether in the arts which we assiduously 
practise during our single life, or in the struc- 
tures and instincts of successive generations. 
The memory does not complete a true circle, 
but is, as it were, a spiral slightly divergent 
therefrom. It is no longer a perfectly circulat- 
ing decimal. Where, on the other hand; there' 
is no memory of a like present, where, in fact, 
the memory is not, so to speak, spiral, there is 


no accumulation of improvement. The effect 
of any variation is not transmitted, and is not 
thus pregnant of still further change. 

As regards the second of the two classes of 
actions above referred to — ^those, namely, which 
are not recurrent or habitual, and at no point of 
which is there a memory of a past present like 
the one which is present now — there will have 
been no accumulation of strong and well-knit 
memory as regards the action as a whole, but 
action, if taken at all, will be taken upon dis- 
jointed fragments of individual actions (our own 
and those of other people) pieced together with 
a result more or less satisfactory according to 

But it does not follow that the action of two 
people who have had tolerably similar ante- 
cedents and are placed in tolerably similar cir- 
cumstances should be more unlike each other 
in this second case than in the first. On the 
contrary, nothing is more common than to 
observe the same kind of people making the 
same kind of mistake when placed for the first 
time in the same kind of new circumstances. 
I did not say that there would be no sameness 
of action without memory of a like present. 
There may be sameness of action proceeding 
from a memory, conscious or unconscious, of 


like antecedents, and a presence only of like pre- 
sents without recollection of the same. 

The sameness of action of like persons placed 
under like circumstances for the first time, 
resembles the sameness of action of inorganic 
matter under the same combinations. Let us 
for the moment suppose what we call non-living 
substances to be capable of remembering their 
antecedents, and that the changes they undergo 
are the expressions of their recollections. Then 
I admit, of course, that there is not memory in 
any cream, we will say, that is about to be 
churned of the cream of the preceding week, 
but the common absence of such memory from 
each week s cream is an element of sameness 
between the two. And though no cream can 
remember having been churned before, yet all 
cream in all time has had nearly identical ante- 
cedents, and has therefore nearly the same 
memories, and nearly the same proclivities. 
Thus, in fact, the cream of one week is as truly 
the same as the cream of another week from the 
same cow, pasture, &c., as anything is ever the 
same with anything ; for the having been' sub- 
jected to like antecedents engenders the closest 
similarity that we can conceive of, if the sub- 
stances were like to start with. 

The manifest absence of any connecting 


memory (or memory of like presents) from cer- 
tain of the phenomena of heredity, such as, 
for example, the diseases of old age, is now 
seen to be no valid reason for saying that such 
other and far more numerous and important 
phenomena as those of embryonic development 
are not phenomena of memory. Growth and 
the diseases of old age do indeed, at first sight, 
appear to stand on the same footing, but reflec- 
tion shows us that the question whether a 
certain result is due to memory or no must be 
settled not by showing that combinations into 
which memory does not certainly enter may 
yet generate like results, and therefore con- 
sidering the memory theory disposed of, but 
by the evidence we may be able to adduce 
in support of the fact that the second agent 
has actually remembered the conduct of the 
first, inasmuch as he cannot be supposed, able to 
do what it is plain he can do, except under the 
guidance of memory or experience, and can also 
be shown to have had every opportunity of 
remembering. When either of these tests fails, 
similarity of action on the part of two agents 
need not be connected with memory of a like 
present as well as of like antecedents, but must, 
or at any rate may, be referred to memory of 
like antecedents only. 


Returning to a parenthesis a few pages back, 
in which I said that consciousness of memory 
would be less or greater according to the 
greater or fewer number of times that the act 
had been repeated, it may be observed as a 
corollary to this, that the less consciousness of 
memory the greater the uniformity of action, 
and vice versa. For the less consciousness in- 
volves the memory's being more perfect, through 
a larger number (generally) of repetitions of the 
act that is remembered ; there is therefore a 
less proportionate difference in respect of the 
number of recollections of this particular act 
between the most recent actor and the most 
recent but one. This is why very old civilisa- 
tions, as those of many insects, and the greater 
number of now living organisms, appear to the 
eye not to change at all. 

For example, if an action has been performed 
only ten times, we will say by A, B, C, &c., who 
are similar in all respects, except that A acts 
without recollection, B with recollection of A's 
action, C with recollection of both B's and 
A's, while J remembers the course taken by A, 
B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I — the possession 
of a memory by B will indeed so change his 
action, as compared with A's, that it may well 
be hardly recognisable. We saw this in our 


example of the clerk who asked the policeman 
the way to the eating-house on one day, but 
did not ask him the next, because he remem- 
bered ; but C's action will not be so different 
from B's as B's from A's, for though C will 
act with a memory of two occasions on which 
the action has been performed, while B recol- 
lects only the original performance by A, yet 
B and C both act with the guidance of a 
memory and experience of some kind, while A 
acted without any. Thus the clerk referred to 
in Chapter X. will act on the third day much 
as he acted on the second — that is to say, he 
will see the policeman at the corner of the 
street, but will not question him. 

When the action is repeated by J for the 
tenth time, the difference between J's repeti- 
tion of it and Ts will be due solely to the 
difference between a recollection of nine past 
performances by J against only eight by I, and 
this is so much proportionately less than the 
difference between a recollection of two per- 
formances and of only one, that a less modifi- 
cation of action should be expected. At the 
same time consciousness concerning an action 
repeated for the tenth time should be less acute 
than on the first repetition. Memory, therefore, 
though tending to disturb similarity of action 


less and less continually, must always cause 
some disturbance. At the same time the pos- 
session of a memory on the successive repetitions 
of an action after the first, and, perhaps, the first 
two or three, during which the recollection 
may be supposed still imperfect, will tend to 
ensure uniformity, for it will be one of the 
elements of sameness in the agents — they both 
acting by the light of experience and memory. 

During the embryonic stages and in child- 
hood we are almost entirely under the guidance 
of a practised and powerful memory of circum- 
stances which have been often repeated, not 
only in detail and piecemeal, but as a whole, 
and under many slightly varying conditions ; 
thus the performance has become well averaged 
and matured in its arrangements, so as to meet 
all ordinary emergencies. We therefore act 
with great unconsciousness and vary our per- 
formances little. Babies are much more alike 
than persons of middle age. 

Up to the average age at which our ancestors 
have had children during many generations, we 
are still guided in great measure by memory ; 
but the variations in external circumstances 
begin to make themselves perceptible in our 
characters. In middle life we live more and 
more continually upon the piecing together of 



details of memory drawn from our personal 
experience, that is to say, upon the memory of 
our own antecedents ; and this resembles the 
kind of memory we hypothetically attached to 
cream a little time ago. It is not surprising, 
then, that a son who has inherited his father's 
tastes and constitution, and who lives much as 
his father had done, should make the same 
mistakes as his father did when he reaches his 
father's age — we will say of seventy — though he 
cannot possibly remember his father's having 
made the mistakes. It were to be wished we 
could, for then we might know better how to 
avoid gout, cancer, or what not. And it is to 
be noticed that the developments of old age are 
generally things we should be glad enough to 
avoid if we knew how to do so. 

( 268 ) 



If we observed the resemblance between suc- 
cessive generations to be as close as that 
between distilled water and distilled water 
through all time, and if we observed that per- 
fect unchangeableness in the action of living 
beings which we see in what we call chemical 
and mechanical combinations, we might indeed 
suspect that memory had as little place among 
the causes of their action as it can have in any- 
thing, and that each repetition, whether of a 
habit or the practice of art, or of an embryonic 
process in successive generations, was an original 
performance, for all that memory had to do with 
it. I submit, however, that in the case of the 
reproductive forms of life we see just so much 
variety, in spite of uniformity, as is consistent 
with a repetition involving not only a nearly 
perfect similarity in the agents and their circum- 
stances, but also the little depjarture therefrom 
that is inevitably involved in the supposition 


that a memory of like presents as well as of like 
antecedents (as distinguished from a memory 
of like antecedents only) has played a part in 
their development — a cyclonic memory, if the 
expression may be pardoned. 

There is life infinitely lower and more minute 
than any which our most powerful microscopes 
reveal to us, but let us leave this. upon one side 
and begin with the amoeba. Let us suppose 
that this structureless morsel of protoplasm is, 
for all its structurelessness, composed of an 
infinite number of living molecules, each one of 
them with hopes and fears of its own, and all 
dwelling together like Tekke Turcomans, of 
whom we read that they live for plunder only, 
and that each man of them is entirely indepen- 
dent, acknowledging no constituted authority, 
but that some among them exercise a tacit and 
undefined influence over the others. Let us 
suppose these molecules capable of memory, 
both in their capacity as individuals, and as 
societies, and able to transmit their memories 
to their descendants, from the traditions of the 
dimmest past to the experiences of. their own 
lifetime. Some of these societies will remain 
simple, as having had no history, but to the 
greater number unfamiliar, and therefore strik- 
ing, incidents will from time to time occur, 


which, when they do not disturb memory so 
greatly as to kill, will leave their impression 
upon it. The body or society will remember 
these incidents, and be modified by them in 
its conduct, and therefore more or less in its 
internal arrangements, which will tend inevi- 
tably to specialisation. This memory of the 
most striking events of varied lifetimes I main- 
tain, with Professor Hering, to be the differen- 
tiating cause, which, accumulated in countless 
generations, has led up from the amoeba to 
man. If there had been no such memory, the 
amoeba of one generation would have exactly 
resembled the amoeba of the preceding, and a 
perfect cycle would have been established ; the 
modifying effects of an additional memory in 
each generation have made the cycle into a 
spiral, and into a spiral whose eccentricity, in 
the outset hardly perceptible, is becoming 
greater and greater with increasing longevity 
and more complex social and mechanical in- 

We say that the chicken grows the horny tip 
to its beak with which it ultimately pecks its 
way out of its* shell, because it remembers hav- 
ing grown it before, and the use it made of it. 
We say that it made it on the same principles 
as a man makes a spade or a hammer, that is 


to say, as the joint result both of desire and 
experience. When I say experience, I mean 
experience not only of what will be wanted, but 
also of the details of all the means that must be 
taken in order to effect this. Memory, there- 
fore, is supposed to guide the chicken not only 
in respect of the main design, but in respect 
also of every atomic action, so to speak, which 
goes to make up the execution of this de- 
sign. It is not only the suggestion of a plan 
which is due to memory, but, as .Professor 
Hering has so well said, it is the binding power 
of memory which alone renders any consolida- 
tion or coherence of action possible, inasmuch 
as without this no action could have parts sub- 
ordinate one to another, yet bearing upon a 
common end; no part of an action, great or 
small, could have reference to any other part, 
much less to a combination of all the parts; 
nothing, in fact, but ultimate atoms of actions 
could ever happen — these bearing the same 
relation to such an action, we will say, as a 
railway journey from London to Edinburgh as 
a single molecule of hydrogen to a gallon of 
water. If asked how it is that the chicken 
shows no sign of consciousness concerning this 
design, nor yet of the steps it is taking to carry 
it out, we reply that such unconsciousness is 


usual in all cases where an action, and the 
design which prompts it, have been repeated 
exceedingly often. If, again, we are asked how 
we account for the regularity with which each 
step is taken in its due order, we answer that 
this too is characteristic of actions that are done 
habitually — they being very rarely misplaced in 
respect of any part. 

When I wrote " Life and Habit,*' I had ar- 
rived at the conclusion that memory was the 
most essential characteristic of life, and went so 
V far as to say, " Life is that property of matter 
whereby it can remember — matter which can 
remember is living." I should perhaps have 
written, *' Life is the being possessed of a 
memory — the life of a thing at any moment is 
the memories which at that moment it retains ;" 
and I would modify the words that immediately 
follow, namely, '* Matter which cannot remem- 
ber is dead ; " for they imply that there is such 
a thing as matter which cannot remember any- 
thing at all, and this on fuller consideration I 
do not believe to be the case ; I can conceive 
of no matter which is not able to remember a 
little, and which is not living in respect of what 
it can remember. I do not see how action of 
any kind is conceivable without the supposition 
that every atom retains a memory of certain 


antecedents. I cannot, however, at this point, 
enter upon the reasons which have com- 
pelled me to this conclusion. Whether these 
would be deemed sufficient or no, at any rate, 
we cannot believe that a system of self-repro- 
ducing associations should develop from the 
simplicity of the amoeba to the complexity of 
the human body without the presence of that 
memory, which can alone account at once for 
the resemblances and the differences between 
successive generations, for the arising and the 
accumulation of divergences — for the tendency 
to differ and the tendency not to differ. 

At parting, therefore, I would j-ecommend 
the reader to s ee every atom in the universe V' 
as living and able to. feel aDdjo.rememl;)er^but 
in a humbl eway> He must have life eternal, 
as well as matter eternal ; and the life and the 
matter must be joined together inseparably as 
body and soul to one another. Thus he will 
see God everywhere, not as those"wKoTep^t 
phrases conventionally, but as people who 
would have their words taken according to 
their most natural and legitimate meaning ; and 
he will feel that the main difference between 
him and many of those who oppose him lies 
in the fact that whereas both he and they use 
the same language, his opponents only half 


mean what they say, while he means it en- 

The attempt to get a higher form of a life 
from a lower one is in accordance with our 
observation and experience. It is therefore 
proper to be believed. The attempt to get it 
from that which has absolutely no life is like 
trying to get something out of nothing. The 
millionth part of a farthing put out to. interest 
at ten per cent, will in five hundred years 
become over a million pounds, and so long as 
we have any millionth of a millionth of the 
farthing to start with, our getting as many 
million pounds as we have a fancy for is only 
a question of time, but without the initial 
millionth of a millionth of a millionth part, we 
shall get no increment whatever. A little leaven 
will leaven the whole lump, but there must be 

I will here quote two passages from an article 
already quoted from on page 85 of this book. 
They run : — 


" We are growing conscious that our earnest and most 
determined efforts to make motion produce sensation and 
volition have proved a failure, and now we want to rest a 
little in the opposite, much less laborious conjecture, and allow | 

any kind of motion to start into existence, or at least to re- { 

ceive its specific direction from psychical sources j sensation | 


and volition being for the purpose quietly insinuated into 
the constitution of the ultimately moving particles." ^ 

And :— 

" In this light it can remain no longer surprisihg that we 
actually find motility and sensibility so intimately inter- 
blended in nature." * 

We should endeavour to see the so-called 
inorganic as living, in respect of the qualities it 
has in common with the organic, rather than the 
organic as non-living in respect of the qualities 
it has in common with the inorganic. True, it 
would be hard to place one's self on the same 
moral platform as a stone, but this is not 
necessary ; it is enough that we should feel the 
stone to have a moral platform of its own, 
though that platform embraces little more than 
a profound respect for the laws of gravitation, 
chemical affinity, &c. As for the difficulty of 
conceiving a body as living that has not got 
a reproductive system — we should remember 
that neuter insects are living but are believed 
to have no reproductive system. Again, we 
should bear in mind that mere assimilation 
involves all the essentials of reproduction, and 
that both air and water possess this power in 

* " The Unity of the Organic Individual," by Edward Montgomery, 
Mind, October 1880, p. 477. 
" Ibid., p. 483. 


a very high degree. The essence of a repro- 
ductive system, then, is found low down in the 
scheme of nature. 

At present our leading men of science are in 
this difficulty ; on the one hand their experi- 
ments and their theories alike teach them that 
spontaneous generation ought not to be ac- 
cepted ; on the other, they must have an origin 
for the life of the living forms, which, by their 
own theory, have been evolved, and they can at 
present get this origin in no other way than by 
the Deus ex machind method, which they reject 
as unproved, or a spontaneous generation of 
living from non-living matter, which is no less 
foreign to their experience. As a general rule, 
they prefer the latter alternative. So Professor 
Tyndall, in his celebrated article {Nineteenth 
Century y November 1878), wrote: — 

"It is generally conceded (and seems to be 
a necessary inference from the lessons of science) 
that spontaneous generation must at one time 
have taken pla€e'' (italics mine). 

No inference can well be more unnecessary 
or unscientific. I suppose spontaneous genera- 
tion ceases to be objectionable if it was " only 
a very little one," and came off a long time 
ago in a foreign country. The proper inference 
is, thatjhere-is^-aJow kind ofTiymgness in every 


at om of matt er. Life eternal is as inevitable 
a conclusion as matter eternal. 

It should not be doubted that wherever there 
is vibration or motion there is life and memory, 
and that there is vibration and motion at all 
times in all things. 

The reader who takes the above position 
will find that he can explain the entry of 
what he calls death among what he calls the 
living, whereas he could by no means introduce 
life into his system if he started without it. 
Death is deducible ; life is not deducible. 
Death is a change of memories ; it is not the 
destruction of all memory. It is as the 
liquidation of one company, each member of 
which will presently join a new one, and retain 
a trifle even of the old cancelled memory, by 
way of greater aptitude for working in concert 
with other molecules. This is w^hy animals feed 
on grass and on each other, and cannot prose- 
lytise or convert the rude ground before it has 
been tutored in the first principles of the higher 
kinds of association. 

Again, I would recommend the reader to be- 
ware of believing anything in this book unless 
he either likes it, or feels angry at being told it. 
If required belief in this or that makes a man 
angry, I suppose he should, as a general rule, 


swallow it whole then and there upon the spot, 
otherwise he may take it or leave it as he 
likes. I have not gone far for my facts, nor 
yet far from them ; all on which I rest are as 
open to the reader as to me. If I have some- 
times used hard terms, the probability is that 
I have not understood them, but have done so 
by a slip, as one who has caught a bad habit 
from the company he has been lately keeping. 
They should be skipped. 

Do not let him be too much cast down 
by the bad language with which professional 
scientists obscure the issue, nor by their 
seeming to make it their business to fog us 
under the pretext of removing our difficulties. 
It is not the ratcatcher's interest to catch all 
the rats ; and, as Handel observed so sensibly, 
" Every professional gentleman must do his 
best for to. live." The art of some of our 
philosophers, however, is sufficiently trans- 
parent, and consists too often in saying " organ- 
ism which . . . must be classified among fishes," ^ 
instead of " fish," and then proclaiming that 
they have " an ineradicable tendency to try to 
make things clear."* 

If another example is required, here is the 


^ Professor Huxley, Encycl. Brit., 9th ed., Art. Evolution, p. 750. j 

* " Hume, " by Professor Huxley, p. 45. ; 



following from an article than which I have 
seen few with which I more completely agree, 
or which have given me greater pleasure. If 
our men of science would take to writing in this 
way, we should be glad enough to follow them. 
The passage I refer to runs thus : — 

" Professor Huxley speaks of a * verbal fog by which the 
question at issue may be hidden ; ' is there no verbal fog 
in the statement that the (ztiology of crayfishes resolves itself 
into a gradtial evolution in the course of the mesosoic and 
subsequent epochs of the world *s history of these animals from 
a primitive astacomorphous form ? Would it be fog or light 
that would envelop the history of man if we said that the 
existence of man was explained by the hypothesis of his 
gradual evolution from a primitive anthropomorphous form ? 
I should call this fog, not light." ^ 

Especially let him mistrust those who are 
holding forth aljout protoplasm, and maintaining 
that this is the only living substance. Proto- 
plasm may be, and perhaps is, the most living 
part of an organism, as the most capable of 
retaining vibrations, but this is the utmost that 
can be claimed for it. 

Having mentioned protoplasm, I may ask the 
reader to note the breakdown of that school 
of philosophy which divided the ego from the 
non ego. The protoplasmists, on the one hand, 

1 *'The Philosophy of Crayfishes," by the Right Rev. the Lord 
Bishop of Carlisle. Nineteenth Century for October 1880, p. 636. 


are whittling away at the eg^o, till they have 
reduced it ta a little jelly in certain parts of the 
body, and they will whittle away this too pre- 
sently, if they go on as they are doing now. 

Others, again, are so unifying the ego and the 
non eg-Of that with them there will soon be as 
little of the no/t ego left as there is of the ego 
with their opponents. Both, however, are so 
far agreed as that we know not where to draw 
the line between the two, and this renders 
nugatory any system which is founded upon a 
distinction between them. 

The truth is, that all classification whatever, 
when we examine its raisoH d'^itre closely, is 
found to be arbitrary — to depend on our sense 
of our own convenience, and not on any in- 
herent distinction in the nature of the things 
themselves. Strictly speaking, there is only 
one thing and one action. The universe, or 
God, and the action of the universe as a 

Lastly, I may predict with some certainty 
that before long we shall find the original 
Darwinism of Dr. Erasmus Darwin (with an 
infusion of Professor Hering into the bargain) 
generally accepted instead of the neo- Darwin- 
ism of to-day, and that the variations whose 
accumulation results in species will be recog- 


nised as due to the wants and endeavours of 
the living forms in which they appear, instead 
of being ascribed to chance, or, in other words, 
to unknown causes, as by Mr. Charles Dar- 
win's system. We shall have some idyllic young 
naturalist bringing up Dr. Erasmus Darwin's 
note on Trapa nutans^ and Lamarck's kindred 
passage on the descent of Ranunculus hederaceus 
from Ranunculus aquatilis ^ as fresh discoveries, 
and be told, with much happy simplicity, that 
those animals and plants which have felt the 
need of such or such a structure have developed 
it, while those which have not wanted it have 
gone without it. Thus, it will be declared, every 
leaf we see around us, every structure of the 
minutest insect, will bear witness to the truth 
of the ** great guess " of the greatest of natural- 
ists concerning the memory of living matter. 

I dare say the public will not object to this, 
and am very sure that none of the admirers of 
Mr. Charles Darwin or Mr. Wallace will protest 
against it ; but it may be as well to point out 
that this was not the view of the matter taken 
by Mr. Wallace in 1858 when he and Mr. Dar- 
win first came forward as preachers of natu- 
ral selection. At that time Mr. Wallace saw 

^ Les Amours des Plantes, p. 360. Paris, 1800. 
^ Philosophic Zoologique, torn. i. p. 231. Ed. M. Martin. Paris, 


clearly enough the difference between the 
theory of " natural selection " and that of La- 
marck. He wrote : — 

" The hypothesis of Lamarck — that progressive changes 
in species have been produced by the attempts of animals 
to increase the development of their own organs, and thus 
modify their structure and habits — has been repeatedly 
and easily refuted by all writers on the subject of varieties 
and species, . . . but the view here developed renders such 
an hypothesis quite unnecessary . . . The powerful re- 
tractile talons of the falcon and the cat tribes have not 
been produced or increased by the volition of those animals, 
. . . neither did the giraffe acquire its long neck by desiring 
to reach the foliage of the more lofty shrubs, and constantly 
stretching its neck for this purpose, but because any 
varieties which occurred among its antitypes with a longer 
neck than usual at once secured afresh range of pasture aver 
the same ground as their shorter-necked companions^ and on 
the first scarcity of food were thereby enabled to outlive them " 
(italics in original).^ 

This is absolutely the neo-Darwinian doc- 
trine, and a denial of the mainly fortuitous cha- 
racter of the variations in animal and vege- 
table forms cuts at its root. That Mr. Wallace, 
after years of reflection, still adhered to this 
view, is proved by his heading a reprint of the 
paragraph just quoted from^ with the words 
** Lamarck's hypothesis very different from that 

^ Journal of the Proceedings of the Linnean Society. Williams & 
Norgate, 1858, p. 61. 

' Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, 2d ed., 1871, 
p. 41. 


now advanced ; " nor do any of his more recent 
works show that he has modified his opinion. 
It should be noted that Mr. Wallace does not 
call his work *' Contributions to the Theory 
of Evolution/' but to that of ** Natural Selec- 

Mr. Darwin, with characteristic caution, only 
commits himself to saying that Mr. Wallace 
has arrived at almost (italics mine) the same 
general conclusions as he, Mr. Darwin, has 
done ;^ but he still, as in 1859, declares that it 
would be " a serious error to suppose that the 
greater number of instincts have been acquired 
by habit in one generation, and then transmitted 
by inheritance to succeeding generations," ^ and 
he still comprehensively condemns the ''well- 
known doctrine of inherited habit, as advanced 
by Lamarck." ® 

As for the statement in the passage quoted 
from Mr. Wallace, to the effect that Lamarck's 
hypothesis " has been repeatedly and easily 
refuted by all writers on the subject of varieties 
and species," it is a very surprising one. I 
have searched Evolution literature in vain for 

* Origin of Species, p. I, ed. 1872. 

* Origin of Species, 6th ed., p. 206, I ought in fairness to Mr 
Darwin to say that he does not hold the error to be quite as serious as 
he once did. It is now **a serious error" only ; in 18.59 it was **the 
most serious error." — Origin of Species, 1st ed., p. 209. 

' Origin of Species, 1st ed., p. 242 ; 6th ed., p. 233. 


any refutation of the Erasmus Darwinian sys- 
tem (for this is what Lamarck's hypothesis 
really is), which need make the defenders of 
that system at all uneasy. The best attempt 
at an answer to Erasmus Darwin that has yet 
been made is " Paley s Natural Theology," 
which was throughout obviously written to 
meet Buffon and the " Zoonomia." It is the 
manner of theologians to say that such and 
such an objection "has been refuted over and 
over again," without at the same time telling 
us when and where ; it is to be regretted that 
Mr. Wallace has here taken a leaf out of the 
theologians' book. His statement is one which 
will not pass muster with those whom public 
opinion is sure in the end to follow. 

Did Mr. Herbert Spencer, for example, "re- 
peatedly and easily refute" Lamarck's hypo- 
thesis in his brilliant article in the Leader^ 
March 20, 1852 ? On the contrary, that article 
is expressly directed against those " who cava- 
lierly reject the hypothesis of Lamarck and his 
followers." This article was written six years 
before the words last quoted from Mr. Wallace ; 
how absolutely, however, does the word " cava- 
lierly *' apply to them ! 

Does Isidore Geoffrey, again, bear Mr. Wal- 
lace's assertion out better? In 1859 — that is 



to say, but a short time after Mr. Wallace had 
written — he wrote as follows : — 

"Such was the language which Lamarck heard during 
his protracted old age, saddened alike by the weight of 
years and blindness ; this was what people did not hesitate 
to utter over his grave yet barely closed, and what indeed 
they are still saying — commonly too without any know- 
ledge of what Lamarck maintained, but merely repeating at 
secondhand bad caricatures of his teaching. 

" When will the time come when we may see Lamarck's 
theory discussed — and, I may as well at once say, refuted 
in some important points ^ — with at any rate the respect 
due to one of the most illustrious masters of our science ? 
And when will this theory, the hardihood of which has 
been greatly exaggerated, become freed from the interpre- 
tations and commentaries by the false light of which so 
many naturalists have formed their opinion concerning it ? 
If its author is to be condemned, let it be, at any rate, not 
before he has been heard." ^ 

In 1873 M. Martin published his edition of 
Lamarck's *' Philosophie Zoologique." He was 
still able to say, with, I believe, perfect truth, 
that Lamarck's theory has "never yet had the 
honour of being discussed seriously." ^ 

Professor Huxley in his article on Evolu- 
tion is no less cavalier than Mr. Wallace. He 
writes : * — 

^ I never could find what these particular points were. 
' Isidore Geoffrey, Hist. Nat. Gen., torn. ii. p. 407, 1859. 
' M. Martin's edition of the ** Philosophie Zoologique " (Paris, 1873), 
Introduction, p. vi. 
^ Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., p. 750. 


" Lamarck introduced the conception of the action of an 
animal on itself as a factor in producing modification.'' 

[Lamarck did nothing of the kind. It was 
BufFon and Dr. Darwin who introduced this, 
but more especially Dr. Darwin.] 

"But a little consideration showed ^^ (italics mine) "that 
though Lamarck had seized what, as far as it goes, is a true 
cause of modification, it is a cause the actual effects of 
which are wholly inadequate to account for any consider- 
able modification in animals, and which can have no in- 
fluence whatever in the vegetable world, &c" 

I should be very glad to come across some of 
the " little consideration " which will show this. 
I have searched for it far and wide, and have 
never been able to find it. 

I think Professor Huxley has been exercising 
some- of his ineradicable tendency to try to 
make things clear in the article on Evolution, 
already so often quoted from. We find him 
(p. 750) pooh-poohing Lamarck, yet on the 
next page he says, " How far ' natural selection' 
suffices for the production of species remains to 
be seen." And this when " natural selection " 
was already so nearly of age ! Why, to those 
who know how to read between a philosopher's 
lines, the sentence comes to very nearly the 
same as a declaration that the writer has no 
great opinion of " natural selection." Professor 

.-^— ^"i 


Huxley continues, " Few can doubt that, if not 
the whole cause, it is a very important factor in 
that operation/' A philosopher's words should 
be weighed carefully, and when Professor 
Huxley says '* few can doubt,** we must remem- 
ber that he may be including himself among 
the few whom he considers to have the power 
of doubting on this matter. He does not say 
" few will," but " few can " doubt, as though it 
were only the enlightened who would have the 
power of doing so. Certainly " nature," — for 
this is what ** natural selection " comes to, — is 
rather an important factor in the operation, but 
we do not gain much by being told so. If 
however. Professor Huxley neither believes in 
the origin of species, through sense of need 
on the part of animals themselves, nor yet in 
** natural selection," we should be glad to know 
what he does believe in. 

The battle is one of greater importance than 
appears at first sight. It is a battle between 
teleology and non-teleology, between the purpo- 
siveness and the non-purposiveness of the organs 
in animal and vegetable bodies. According to 
Erasmus, Darwin, Lamarck, and Paley, organs 
are purposive; according to Mr. Darwin and 
his followers, they are not purposive. But 
the main arguments against the system of 



Dr. Erasmus Darwin are arguments which, so 
far as they have any weight, tell against evolu- 
tion generally. Now that these have been dis- 
posed of, and the prejudice against evolution 
has been overcome, it will be seen that there is 
nothing to be said against the system of Dr. 
Darwin and Lamarck which does not tell with 
far greater force against that of Mr. Charles 
Darwin and Mr. Wallace. 





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PuRVES, M.D., F.R.C.S., J. Netten Radcliffe, Ex.-Pres. Epidl. 
Soa, &c., C. H. Ralfe, M.A., M.D., S. Ringer, M.D., F.R.C.P. 
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Alcohol : Its Use and Abuse. 
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Personal Appearances in Health and Disease. 
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The Skin and its Troubles. 
The Heart and its Functions. 

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The Ear and Hearing. 

The Head. 

Clothing and Dress. 


Fatigue and Pain. 

The Eye and Vision. 

The Throat and Voice. 
Temperature in Health and 

Health of Travellers. 
Health in Schools. 
Breath Organs. 
Foods and Feeding. 

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